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Shabbat Parashat Miketz 5777

Ask the Rabbi: Place of Chanuka Candle Lighting at a Guesthouse

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: My extended family will be at a guesthouse for Shabbat of Chanuka. They have told us that we cannot light Chanuka candles in the rooms we will sleep in or our family’s small, separate dining room, but in the main lobby with the rest of the guests. Can we fulfill the mitzva that way, or must we find an alternative?

: While one usually lights Chanuka candles in his own home, the gemara (Shabbat 23a) does discuss lighting at a guesthouse (achsenai). A guest takes part in the lighting there, at least by contributing toward the oil, unless his wife lights on his behalf. The Shulchan Aruch (677:1) says that in any case, if the guest has his own place to sleep, he should light there so that it does not appear that the occupant of those quarters does not light candles. The Rama (ad loc.) says that in such a case, since people light inside nowadays and people will not be suspicious, the place one lights is where he eats. A precedent is the halacha that regarding matters of eiruvin, a person’s main place of inhabitation is where he eats, not where he sleeps (see Taz, OC 671:2).

Contemporary poskim have discussed various cases where it is less clear that the eating place is the best place. Yeshiva students living in dormitories is perhaps the most discussed. The Chazon Ish is among those who say that the yeshiva dining room is indeed the best place. However, many point out drawbacks. First, the dining room, being used by all students, lacks the personal connection to the individual that exists in his home or even dorm room (see Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah III:14). Also, students are usually allowed in the dining room only for short periods during the day (p’sak of Rav Abba Shaul). In contrast, one’s dormitory room is his all the time (even if a healthy, motivated talmid is in the beit midrash almost all day).

Your scenario might provide a test-case between the reasons. Over Shabbat, your small dining room is set aside for your family, which could make it ideal for most poskim. However, there is a possible drawback if, as it is likely it will not be open to you the whole day. Still, that is to a great extent to keep the room in good order for your next meal, and also on Friday night, it will certainly be available to you throughout the crucial time the Chanuka candles should be lit. While one might claim that the rooms you sleep in are as good or even better, the hotel will undoubtedly not give in (for excellent reason) to have candles burning in several unattended rooms. (During the week, it might work to promise to stay put for half an hour and then extinguish them). In short, if you can make a safe arrangement and get permission to light in your dining room, that is excellent.

At first glance, the lobby seems problematic, as it is neither the place of sleeping nor eating. However, important poskim (including Rav S.Z. Auerbach – see Halichot Shlomo 14:8 – and Shevet Halevi (III:83)) making the following cogent point. The discussions regarding the place of sleep vs. eating refer to the choice between places in different buildings (e.g., married children eating with parents and sleeping at home). However, when all major home activities occur in one premises, even a large one like a yeshiva, any location on those premises which they frequent can work. After all, it is accepted and acceptable to light in one’s home in the living room, for example, even if no one eats or sleeps in that room. We would say that the greater the extent to which the lobby is open to and used by the guests, all the more so if it is adjoining the dining room, the stronger the logic of being able to light there. If you visit the candles during the meal, that only improves the situation.

In most cases, we would suggest to light with a beracha in the lobby, if you don’t get permission for the private dining room. (If someone wants to be machmir, he can appoint an agent to light at a safe and appropriate place in his own home; it is still worthwhile to light, at least without a beracha, in the lobby.)

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