The mitzva of lighting candles has two components. The first is connected to the place – there should be light in the place where one is eating, to make Shabbat enjoyable. Similarly, there must be light in other places that are in use Friday night. The second component is connected to the person – there is a mitzva for the person to light candles to honor Shabbat. Accordingly, even if there was a candle already lit on the table before Shabbat, it must be blown out and relit with a berakha in honor of Shabbat. When a mother lights candles, she fulfills this requirement for the whole family.
As long as one of these components is present, one lights and recites the berakha. When neither component is present, one does not light Shabbat candles.
Therefore, a married or single man spending Shabbat with another family need not light Shabbat candles. As far as having light at the meal, the hostess will be lighting there. From the personal perspective, the person is secondary to the members of the household, and fulfills his obligation with his hostess’s lighting just as the rest of the household does.
If one is eating with his hosts but sleeping elsewhere, it is more complicated. If he is single and lights candles each week in his apartment because of his personal obligation, then he should light candles with a berakha where he is sleeping. But if he lives with his parents, or if he is married and his wife is lighting elsewhere, he is not obligated to light candles. This is because according to some opinions, the candles his mother or wife lights at home can fulfill his personal obligation. Even if that is not the case, it is possible that the lighting of his hostess exempts him. In terms of the obligation to have light in the place where he is staying, presumably there are electric lights there. Nevertheless, it is a good idea for him to give his hosts a small amount of money (a shekel or a dollar) in order to participate actively in their candle lighting.
If one is eating alone in a room on Friday night, even if he is married or a single who lives with his parents, there is a mitzva for him to light candles with a berakha, because there should be light in the place where he is eating. Similarly, soldiers – whether married or single – should make sure that someone lights candles with a berakha in the dining room of the army base. They should also try to make sure that there will be some light in the rooms where they are sleeping.
Custom dictates that women who are away for Shabbat have in mind not to fulfill their obligation with the lighting of their hostess, even though technically they may do so. They then light the candles themselves to fulfill the mitzva. As we learned in the previous section, there is a debate about where they may light and recite the berakha
- If one is relying on his hosts for meals and does not have his own room, if he wishes he may light Shabbat candles. He may intend not to fulfill his obligation with his hostess’s lighting, and then he will be obligated to light because of his personal obligation (as we learned in section 6, according to most poskim one may light with a berakha next to someone else’s candles, though some maintain that one may recite the berakha only when lighting in a different room). The custom is that women, who light candles every week, do not fulfill their obligations through the hostess, while men, who do not regularly light candles each week, fulfill their obligations through her.
- An older and independent single, widower, or divorcé who lights each week in his home, has the option as a guest to rely on the hostess’s lighting. Even though the hosts have provided him with his own room, SAH 263:9 states that as long as the hosts also have use of the room, the room is considered secondary to the home, and the guest is considered to be reliant on their hospitality. If the room is set aside for his use only and he eats with the hosts, and even more so if he is sleeping in a different apartment and just eating with them, it is trickier. It would seem that he should light in his room with a berakha, because of both the requirement to light at the place – he should light there so he does not trip – and the personal requirement. On the other hand, one might argue that if there is a little light in the room, either from the bathroom light or from street lights, then as far as the place is concerned he is not obligated. And from the perspective of his personal obligation, it is possible that he fulfills it via the lighting of the hostess at the table where they will eat. It would seem that one who wishes to be lenient has an opinion to rely on, but it is preferable that he light in his room with a berakha, or at least give his hosts a small contribution so that he can be considered a partner in their lighting.
- The status of a married person is different. When we spoke of singles, we stated that if one does not want to fulfill his obligation through his hostess’s lighting, he need not do so. However, there is disagreement among the poskim in the case of a husband who wishes to light candles at home but whose wife is already lighting. Some maintain that he may light with a berakha in a different room (Eshel Avraham [Buczacz]; Pri Megadim, Eshel Avraham 263:6). However, most poskim maintain that he may not light with a berakha (SAH; Ĥesed La-alafim 263:7; BHL 263:6, s.v. “baĥurim”). If the husband is away from home, then according to most poskim he should light with a berakha. This is the opinion of Mordechai; SA 263:6; Pri Megadim; SAH 263:9; Ĥayei Adam; BHL 263:6, s.v. “baĥurim”; and many others. Others maintain that since his wife is lighting with a berakha, even if he must light on account of being in a different location, he should not make a berakha. This is the position of Derekh Ha-ĥayim, and would seem to be the position of Leket Yosher as well. Some poskim maintain that if one’s wife is in the same city, he may not recite a berakha; but if she is in a different city, he does recite a berakha (Tzitz Eliezer 14:23 citing Tashbetz Katan, Orĥot Ĥayim; Shulĥan Atzei Shitim). The bottom line would seem to be that if he is eating and sleeping in a room of his own, even if he is in the same city as his wife, he lights with a berakha according to the opinion of the vast majority of poskim. But when it is not clear that he is obligated, such as when he is eating Friday night with a family, then even if he has a separate apartment in which to sleep, he does not need to light as long as there is light from the bathroom or street lights to make sure he does not bump into things. That takes care of the place component of the need to light. In terms of his personal obligation, some say that his wife’s lighting exempts him, and it is also possible that his hostess’s lighting exempts him. He should ask the hostess to have in mind to fulfill his obligation as well, and it is even better if he makes a small monetary contribution for this purpose. If he wishes to light with a berakha, he may do so. It would seem that children living with their parents and spending Shabbat away from home have the same status as a married man. See Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 13:11 regarding Ĥanuka candles.