13. Yeshiva Students, Soldiers, and College Students


A yeshiva student who sleeps in his dormitory room and eats in a cafeteria must light in his room, because he resides there for an extended period and the room is set aside for him. If the dormitory room has a window facing the street, he should light in the window to publicize the miracle. If there is no window facing the street, he should light inside his room, preferably to the left of the doorway, so that the mezuza will be on the right and the Ĥanuka candles on the left.[21]

An uncertainty arises regarding Sephardic students. According to Sephardic custom, the way to beautify the mitzva is for the head of the household to light for the entire household. Furthermore, according to many poskim, the true home of a yeshiva student is his parents’ home, even though he lives at the yeshiva. His parents’ home is where he returns regularly, and where he goes when he is sick. Therefore, even when he is at the yeshiva, he fulfills his obligation to light through his father’s lighting at home.

On the other hand, some maintain that since the student lives in the yeshiva most of the year, he is considered an independent person with his own home, and thus he must light candles in the yeshiva with the berakhot. Following Sephardic custom, one student should light for himself and all his roommates. The roommates who do not light must either pay the value of a pruta toward the cost of the candles or acquire a share in them.[22]

The laws that apply to a yeshiva student also apply to soldiers and college students. According to the custom of all Ashkenazim and some Sephardim, a soldier or a college student should light in his room with the berakhot. The custom of most Sephardim is that such a person relies on his parents’ lighting. If no one else is lighting in the dorm room, he should light without a berakha. The same pertains to female students studying at seminaries or universities, who live in a dormitory or in a rented apartment. The custom of all Ashkenazim and some Sephardim is to light with the berakhot, and the custom of most Sephardim is to rely on their parents’ lighting. If no one else is lighting in the dormitory room, they should light without the berakhot.[23]

[21]. Yeshiva students must light on their own because they are independent. Even if we claim that they are considered dependent on their parents or on the yeshiva, according to the Ashkenazic version of the custom of mehadrin min ha-mehadrin, each individual must light independently in order to beautify the mitzva. The students fulfill their obligation by lighting in any place in the yeshiva, whether it is in their dormitory rooms or in the cafeteria, just as they would fulfill their obligation by lighting in any place in their homes (Halikhot Shlomo 14:8). The question is: where is it preferable for them to light? According to most poskim, it is preferable for them to light in their rooms, although Rema 677:1 states that in general it is preferable to light where one eats. Ĥazon Ish agrees that it is preferable to light in the cafeteria. Nevertheless, according to most poskim, it is preferable for them to light in their dormitory rooms. The cafeteria is a communal area like a restaurant, while the dormitory room is designated for personal use. Poskim who rule this way include Minĥat Yitzĥak 7:48, Shevet Ha-Levi 3:89, and Az Nidberu 5:38. This was also the custom at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav when I studied there. (Some of the students were stringent and would eat the main meal of each day of Ĥanuka in their dormitory rooms, such that all opinions would agree that this is the proper place to light) According to Igrot Moshe, oĥ 4:70:3, Halikhot Shlomo 14:8, and R. Mordechai Eliyahu, it is preferable to light in a window or on a porch facing the street. According to my teacher and master, R. Shaul Yisraeli, it is best to light in the hall to the left of the doorway, because the hall is comparable to a public area. In any case, even if one lights on a table in one’s dormitory room, one fulfills his obligation.

[22]. The Sephardic custom: The rationale of the position that a yeshiva student fulfills his obligation through his father’s lighting is explained in the main text. Since he has already fulfilled his obligation when his father lit, according to Sephardic custom he may not light candles with the berakhot at the yeshiva. This is similar to the law that we discussed in n. 18 regarding a married man whose wife is lighting for him at home. This is the opinion of R. Ovadia Yosef, R. Mordechai Eliyahu, R. Shaul Yisraeli, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and many others. Yeĥaveh Da’at 6:43 and Torat Ha-mo’adim 2:4 present two additional rationales for why Sephardic yeshiva students may not light independently. First, even if students are not considered dependent on their parents, the entire yeshiva is considered one family, all of whose members are dependent on the rosh yeshiva. Second, every student fulfills his obligation through the lighting that takes place in the beit midrash. Unlike the lighting that takes place in the synagogue (which does not fulfill one’s personal obligation), the beit midrash is considered the home of the students. This is the reason that students may eat and drink in the beit midrash throughout the year. Following this reasoning, there is no need for a yeshiva student to light in his dormitory room. Nevertheless, R. Eliyahu maintains that one student should light in each room without reciting the berakhot. If an Ashkenazic student is lighting there with the berakhot, his Sephardic roommates should contribute to the cost of the candles. There is also a debate about a student whose parents are abroad. R. Eliyahu ruled that in such a case, the student should light with the berakhot, because he is not considered dependent upon them, whereas Yeĥaveh Da’at and Halikhot Shlomo 14:12 state that he does not need to light (perhaps because he fulfills his obligation through the lighting in the beit midrash).

In contrast, R. Shalom Messas and R. Avraham Shapira maintain that even Sephardic students must light candles in the yeshiva. In each dormitory room, at least one person must light and recite the berakhot, while everyone else may contribute to the cost of the candles (see above, 12:3). This opinion is described in Hilkhot Ĥag Be-ĥag 4:4, and is cited in Yemei Hallel Ve-hoda’ah 36:1 in the name of R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. It fits with the simple meaning of the statement in Shabbat 21a that R. Zeira was obligated to light candles himself before he was married. According to this opinion, the candles lit in the beit midrash are not enough for a student to fulfill his obligation through them, because that lighting is similar to the lighting in the synagogue, which is not done to fulfill any obligation. One could argue that this issue should depend upon the attitude of the yeshiva. If the yeshiva sees itself as responsible for all of its students’ needs, then all the students are considered one family whose members fulfill their obligation through the lighting in the beit midrash. On the other hand, most yeshivas consider their students responsible for themselves, while the yeshiva simply helps them by providing room and board. In such a case, the students’ dorm rooms are considered their homes, and it is there that they must light. This is especially applicable when the beit midrash and the dormitory rooms are located in separate buildings. Then the students should certainly not rely on the lighting in the beit midrash. In my humble opinion, when young men and women are studying in institutes of higher education where the students are generally over the age of eighteen, the students are considered independent, and even according to Sephardic practice they must light themselves with the berakhot. The same applies to soldiers, as described in Shabbat U-mo’ed Be-Tzahal, p. 336. Nevertheless, it would seem that even according to this position, when a Sephardic student returns home he is not viewed as a guest, but rather as one who is completely dependent on his parents. Accordingly, he fulfills his obligation through his father’s lighting, and is not even required to contribute the value of a pruta to the cost of the candles, as explained in mb 677:1 and Kaf Ha-ĥayim 677:3. Students who live at home but stay overnight at their yeshiva on Ĥanuka are considered dependent on their parents, and according to Sephardic custom do not need to light in their dormitory room.

It is uncertain whether the student who lights the candles in the beit midrash needs to light again in his room. However, if he lights first in his room, he may certainly light in the beit midrash with the berakhot. In our yeshiva, we make a point of appointing a Sephardic student, who normally relies on the lighting of his parents or roommate, to light in the beit midrash, thus giving him an opportunity to recite the berakhot.

[23]. On one hand, unmarried women are more likely to be dependent on their parents than unmarried men are. On the other hand, young women who study in universities often support themselves, and thus are considered more independent than others. Therefore, they may be compared to yeshiva students. The more independent they are, the more reasonable it is to say that they must light in their apartment with the berakhot, even according to Sephardic custom.

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