06. Family Participation in the Mitzva

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One should try to gather the entire family for candle lighting, so that everyone can hear the berakhot, answer “amen,” and witness the lighting. Besides the fact that this glorifies the mitzva and publicizes the miracle, it is necessary for those who are not reciting the berakhot themselves, like a woman who fulfills her obligation through her husband’s lighting or children who fulfill their obligation through the lighting of the head of the household. By hearing the berakhot, they take part in thanking God for the miracles He performed. According to Rambam and Rashi, if the family members do not hear the berakhot, they must look at the candles and recite the berakha of She-asa Nisim, despite the fact that they already discharged their obligation to light the candles through the head of the household’s lighting. Rashba and Ran, however, maintain that since these family members have already fulfilled the mitzva of lighting, even though they did not hear the berakhot, they do not have to recite the berakha of She-asa Nisim upon seeing the candles. Since the matter is under dispute, one should not recite the berakha (sa 676:3). Le-khatĥila, though, one who does not light and recite the berakhot himself should hear them from someone else and answer “amen,” in order to fulfill the mitzva according to all poskim.

Therefore, one who discharges his obligation through someone else’s lighting, like a woman who fulfills her obligation through her husband’s lighting or children who fulfill their obligation through the lighting of the head of the household, must take part in a candle lighting ceremony, so that they can hear the berakhot and answer “amen.” And even if they cannot be home for the lighting, they should try to attend a lighting and hear the berakhot at a different house or at the synagogue, thereby fulfilling their obligation according to all opinions.[5]


[5]. The Talmud states in Shabbat 23a, “One who sees the Ĥanuka candles must recite a berakha.” The Gemara explains that one who lights recites two berakhotLehadlik and She-asa Nisim – while one who merely sees candles recites one berakhaShe-asa Nisim. On the first night, the berakha of She-heĥeyanu is added. The commentators disagree on what the phrase “one who sees the Ĥanuka candles” means. According to Rashi, Rambam, and Mordechai, one who has another person light on his behalf, but who fails to hear the berakhot, recites She-asa Nisim upon seeing the candles. This is because the mitzva has two components: 1) to light Ĥanuka candles at home, in order to publicize the miracle; and 2) to thank God for the miracle by seeing the candles. One who has another person light on his behalf at home has fulfilled the mitzva of lighting, but since he did not hear the berakha of She-asa Nisim, he has not fulfilled the mitzva of giving thanks. Therefore, he recites the berakha upon seeing Ĥanuka candles. For example, a woman who did not hear her husband recite the berakhot when he lit must recite She-asa Nisim when she comes home later and sees the candles. Similarly, a household member who was absent when the candles were lit recites the berakha of She-asa Nisim when he walks through the streets and sees Ĥanuka candles in the window of someone’s house. On the other hand, Rashba, Ran, and Smag maintain that only one who has not yet discharged his obligation – because he has no one to light on his behalf – recites She-asa Nisim upon seeing Ĥanuka candles.

sa 676:3, mb ad loc. 6, sht ad loc. 9-11, and Kaf Ha-ĥayim ad loc. 24 rule that one should not recite a berakha, because the matter is uncertain. See sa 677:3 and Kaf Ha-ĥayim ad loc. 23. Also see Berur Halakha, Shabbat 23a; Beit Yosef and Baĥ 676:3; mb ad loc. 6; sht ad loc. 9. Even according to those who maintain that the head of the household completely exempts everyone of their obligation with his lighting, it is clear that it is preferable for him to perform the mitzva in the presence of the entire family. Therefore, he must gather his family together shortly before lighting the candles. This ruling is found in ma 672:5, Ĥayei Adam 154:20, mb 672:10, Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 1, Hilkhot Ĥanuka 1 (Vayeshev), and other sources.

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