Rabbi Jachter's Halacha Files

(and other Halachic compositions)

Chai Edition- Parashat Miketz-Chanukah

30 Kislev 5769

December 27, 2008

Vol.18 No.14

Options for One Who Cannot Light Chanukah Candles at the Proper Time - Part 1 of 1

by Rabbi Michael Taubes Faculty Advisor, Volumes 1-5


It is not uncommon, given the relatively short length of the day during the season in which Chanukah falls in this part of the world, to find people who, because of their daily schedules, are not at home and are thus unable to light Chanukah candles at the prescribed time. The question that must be asked, then, is what the preferred course of action is for such individuals.

The Best Time to Light

The Gemara in Shabbat (21b) quotes a B’raita which states that the Mitzvah is to light the Chanukah candles when the sun has set. While this seems straightforward enough, the fact is that there are a number of opinions as to precisely what is meant by sunset here; the discussion about this matter relates to a broader discussion as to the exact definition of sunset as it impacts upon other important areas of Halachah. One possibility is that sunset is indeed that which most people commonly refer to as sunset, namely, when the sun dips below the horizon. This is the position of the Rambam (Hilchot Chanukah 4:5), as understood by the Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 672:4), the Mishnah Berurah to Orach Chaim 672 (in Biur Halachah, s.v. lo me’acharim and s.v. velo makdimim) and others, as well as of the Maharam of Rothenburg in his Teshuvot (Amsterdam edition, #47), among other Rishonim. The Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGra to Orach Chaim 672:1, s.v. sof) thus considers it the correct practice to light Chanukah candles at the time commonly called sunset.

Some, however, maintain that in Halachah, there are actually two phenomena known as sunset, or two stages to the “process” of sunset, the first occurring when the sun dips below the horizon, and the second occurring almost a full hour (58 ½ minutes) later, when the sky is dark except for at its westernmost point, where it is still red (see Tosafot to Berachot 2b, s.v. dilma, to Shabbat 35a, s.v. trei, to Pesachim 94a, s.v. Rabi Yehudah, to Zevachim 56a, s.v. minayin and to Menachot 20b, s.v. nifsal). Accordingly, the Rashba (to Shabbat 21b, s.v. ha deamrinan), the Ran there (9a in Rif, s.v. mitzvatah) and other Rishonim (see Mishnah Berurah in Biur Halachah ibid., s.v. im sof) imply that one should preferably light at the time of this second sunset, or this second stage of sunset. Still others, including Rabbeinu Tam (cited in Tosafot to Menachot ibid.) and the Rosh (Shabbat 2:3), posit that one should light about a quarter of an hour (13 ½ minutes) after that, at which time it is completely dark outside; this is the time they believe is called Tzeit HaKochavim, or the time when the stars are visible in the sky, which is 72 minutes after the time people commonly call sunset.

Most authorities, however, hold that Tzeit HaKochavim actually occurs much earlier, only 13 ½ minutes after the time commonly referred to as sunset. See Teshuvot Maharam Alashkar (no. 96), who asserts that this is the view of the majority of the Geonim and the Rishonim; the Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGra to Orach Chaim 261:2, s.v. shehu) adds that one can tell by simply looking outside that it is completely dark well before 72 minutes after the time commonly known as sunset. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 672:1) rules, as understood by the Magen Avraham there (#1), the Mishnah Berurah there (#1) and others, that one should indeed light Chanukah candles at the time of Tzeit HaKochavim. Consistent with his opinion elsewhere (Orach Chaim 261:2), he thus accepts the position of Rabbeinu Tam that one should light 72 minutes after the time known as sunset. However, the Baal HaTanya in his Siddur, as cited by the Kazhiglover Gaon in a Teshuvah (Shu”t Eretz Tzvi #121), affirms that Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion is clearly in the minority, and thus rules that one should light at the “earlier” Tzeit HaKochavim. This seems to be the widely accepted practice, though there are variations.

The Kazhiglover Gaon himself, for example, rules that one should light 18 minutes after the time commonly called sunset, it is reported that the Chazon Ish would light 20 minutes after sunset (see Sefer Orchot Rabbeinu Baal HaKehilot Yaakov Volume 3, Chanukah #35 and Sheilot UTeshuvot Az Nidberu Volume 7 #70, who adds that some of the Chassidic leaders did so as well) and that Rav Aharon Kotler would light 25 minutes after sunset (see Sefer Nitei Gavriel, Hilchot Chanukah Chapter 3 Note 7). Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim Volume 4, 101:6) recommends lighting ten minutes after sunset; many of these authorities note, though, as the Mishnah Berurah states (ibid.), that one must see to it in any case that the candles (or the oil) should be able to burn for a full half hour after sunset.

Lighting Earlier

The Baraita in Masechet Soferim (20:4) indicates that one may not recite a Berachah over the Chanukah candles at a time when its flame provides no benefit because it is still light outside. The Rambam cited above rules that one should not light the candles any earlier than sunset; this is also the position of the Behag, cited by the aforementioned Rashba and Ran, and others. There is some discussion, however, as to whether the Rambam would disqualify the Mitzvah if one did in fact light early, or whether he means merely that it is preferable not to do so (see Shu”t Pri Yitzchak 2:8 and Ma’atikei Shemuah, Volume 1 page 9). The Rashba and the Ran themselves assert, though, that one may certainly light before the prescribed time, just as one does (by necessity) on the Erev Shabbat of Chanukah. The Beit Yosef (Orach Chaim 672, s.v. umah shekatav) cites an opinion that if one is very busy, he may indeed light the Chanukah candles as early as the time known as Plag HaMinchah, which occurs 1¼ Halachic hours before nightfall (see Mishnah Berurah ibid. #3), provided that the flame will burn for the requisite amount of time. This opinion is codified in the Shulchan Aruch there (672:1); some rule that one may not recite a Berachah in such a case (see Kaf HaChaim ibid. #3), but most do allow the Berachah to be recited even then (Mishnah Berurah ibid., see Shaar HaTziyun #5). One who will be unable to light at the proper time, then, has the option to light earlier, though not before Plag HaMinchah.

Lighting Later

The Gemara in Shabbat quoted above cites a Baraita (21b) stating that the Mitzvah relating to the Chanukah candles extends from the time when the sun has set until there are no more passers-by in the streets. According to the Rambam’s understanding of the Gemara (see his ruling ibid.), although one should light the candles at sunset, as explained above, if he did not, he may still do so as long as there are still passers-by in the streets. After that point, however, one can no longer fulfill the Mitzvah and therefore cannot light. The aforementioned Rosh and one authority cited in Tosafot to that Gemara (s.v. de’iy), among others, agree. According to another authority cited in that Tosafot, though, one may still light even after that time, as the Gemara suggests that the Baraita is not ruling about how late one may light, but rather about how long the candles or the oil must burn, namely, for the amount of time that goes by from sunset until there are no longer any more passers-by in the streets, which the Rishonim (see, for example, Rif there 9a-b) say is half an hour. One may therefore light at any time during the night; the aforementioned Rashba concurs with this view, citing a Mishnah in Megillah (20b) which teaches that Mitzvot which must be done at night may be done any time during the night. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 672:2) rules in accordance with this position, although he maintains that it is certainly preferable to light when passers-by are still around.

It must be pointed out, however, that the above dispute pertains to Talmudic times when the practice was to light the Chanukah candles outdoors, as the Gemara in Shabbat (ibid.) states should be done. In later times, however, the practice developed to light indoors, as the Gemara there allows, due to concerns for danger. According to that same Tosafot in Shabbat, as well as other Rishonim, one therefore need no longer be concerned with lighting specifically when passers-by are present because the lighting is directed primarily towards the members of the household. The Rama (ibid. 672:2) thus rules that nowadays one may light at any time during the night, though he concedes that it is still better to light at the earlier time; the Maharshal in a Teshuvah (#85) asserts that one may light with a Berachah only until midnight.

There is then some question as to whether the members of the household must be present when one wishes to light with a Berachah at a later time. The Pri Chadash (ibid. #2) does not seem to require it, but the Magen Avraham (ibid. #6) says that one may light at any time of the night (until dawn) as long as people in the house are awake, and the Aruch HaShulchan (ibid. #7) agrees, saying that one household member, even a young child, suffices. The Mishnah Berurah (ibid. #11) concludes that it is indeed proper to wake up household members in order to be able to light with a Berachah, In the Shaar HaTziyun (ibid. #17), however, he cites those who allow one to light with a Berachah at any time during the night even if nobody else is awake; this position is accepted by, among others, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim Volume 4, 105:7), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Sefer Shalmei Moed, Chapter 47, page 218) and Rav Ovadyah Yosef (Sefer Chazon Ovadyah-Chanukah, page 62). It is thus a viable option for one who cannot light Chanukah candles on time to do so at any point during the night, though it is certainly better to do so when someone else in the house is awake.

Having Somebody Else Light

The Gemara later in Shabbat (23a) teaches that one of the Amoraim, when unable to light Chanukah candles himself, would have his wife light at home and rely on her performance of the Mitzvah. In discussing the language of the Berachah on lighting Chanukah candles, the Ramban in Pesachim (7a, s.v. uvitekias shofar) implies that the essence of this Mitzvah is to have the candles lit in one’s home; they may therefore be lit by somebody else. The Yad Ephraim (to Magen Avraham there 432:6) states this explicitly. There is thus now a third option for a person who is unable to light Chanukah candles at the proper time, in addition to lighting earlier or lighting later, namely, having somebody else in his household light in his absence at the proper time. The question is, which of these options, if any, is more optimal and should thus be sought out initially?

If one has to choose between lighting candles early (after Plag HaMinchah, but still well before nightfall) and lighting late at night, Rav Moshe Feinstein, as cited in the Sefer Nitei Gavriel (ibid. # 14 and note 29), rules that it is preferable to light early, and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Sefer Shalmei Moed ibid.) agrees. Many others, however, including Rav Shmuel Wosner (Shu”t Shevet HaLevi 4:66), disagree, and hold that it is better to light later at night. Indeed, it appears from the Chayei Adam (154:18) and the Mishnah Berurah (ibid. #2) that lighting early is allowed altogether only if one will not be able to light at any other time. The Sefer Chovat HaDar (Hilchot Ner Chanukah, Chapter 1 note 59) suggests that for those who light outdoors, it is better to light earlier than later, while for those who light indoors, it is better to light later.

If one must choose between lighting earlier and designating a household member who will be there to light in one’s home at the proper time, Rav Wosner (Shu”t Shevet HaLeivi ibid.) rules that one should opt for the latter. The same ruling appears as well in the Sefer Chovat HaDar (ibid. note 50). Similarly, if one has to choose between lighting late at night and designating someone at home to light at the proper time, Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik held that the latter is the preferred option (see Uvdot VeHanagot LeBeit Brisk Volume 2, page 99); Rav Binyamin Zilber (Shu”t Az Nidberu Volume 3 #30:3) rules that way as well, as does Rav Ovadyah Yosef (Shu”t Yechaveh Daat Volume 3 #51) and many others. See, however, Shu”t Shevet HaLeivi ibid. and Rav Moshe Feinstein, cited in the Sefer Moadei Yeshurun (Laws of Chanukah 1:12-13 and notes 27- 28) who disagree, saying that it is preferable to be present when the lights are lit, even at a later time. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shu”t Minchat Shlomo Volume 2, #58:43) also concurs with the first position, though he adds that if for reasons of familial harmony it is better to have the entire family together when lighting Chanukah candles, one may perform the Mitzvah at the time when everybody will be present. This appears to be the wide-spread practice presently in many homes


The Gemara (Berachot 8a-b) writes, “Amar Rav Huna Bar Yehudah Amar Rav Ami LeOlam Yashlim Adam Parshiyotav Im HaTzibur Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum VeAfilu Atarot VeDivon SheKol HaMashlim Parshiyotav Im HaTzibur Maarichin Lo Yamav UShnotav,” “Rav Huna Bar Yehudah said in the name of Rav Ami, ‘A person should always complete his Parshiyot with the congregation, twice reading the Pesukim and once their translation, even the Pasuk “Atarot VeDivon…” (which just consists of names of cities), as anyone who completes his Parshiyot with the congregation has his life lengthened.”

It emerges from the Gemara’s presentation that there are two aspects of this Din: an obligation upon the individual which is emphasized by the words “Yashlim Adam,” “A person should complete,” and a connection between the learning of the individual and the community as signified by the term “Im HaTzibur,” “with the congregation.” What exactly is the relationship between these two aspects of Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum (reading the Pesukim twice and translation once; commonly abbreviated Shemo”t)?

Regarding the source of the Din, the Aruch HaShulchan (O.C. 285:2) writes, “the reason for this (Shemo”t) is unknown, but it is certain that at the time Moshe instituted Keriat HaTorah he also established that each person should read [the Parashah] Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum.” It, thus, emerges from the Aruch HaShulchan that Shemo”t is a Din DeRabanan that parallels Keriat HaTorah.

The Levush (O.C. 285:1) adds that there is a Remez to Shemo”t in the Torah from the Pasuk, “VeEileh Shemot Bnei Yisrael HaBa’im Mitzraymah,” “These are the names of the sons of Yisrael coming to Egypt” (Shemot 1:1), as the first two words are an acronym for the phrase, “(ו)VeChayav (א)Adam (ל)LiKrot (ה)HaParashah (ש)Shenayim (מ)Mikra (ו)VeEchad (ת)Targum,” “A person is obligated to read the Parashah twice Pesukim and once translation.” The Baal HaTurim formulates the Remez by using the first four words of the Pasuk as an acronym: “VeAdam Asher Lomeid HaSeider Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum BeKol Na’im Yashir Yichyeh Shanim Rabot Arukim LeOlam,” “A person who learns the weekly section twice reading it and once the translation in a nice, singing voice will live for many long years.” If we add this idea to that of the Gemara, it appears that one receives long life for the fulfillment of this Din. What exactly is the nature of this Din DeRabanan whose fulfillment warrants such a reward?

The Raavan

The Raavan (Shut 88) writes that only one who lives in a city in which there is no Minyan, and thus no Keriat HaTorah, is obligated in Shemo”t. Such a person must read the Parashah using the Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum method at the same time the Tzibur reads the Parashah in shul. He also notes that the specific format of Shemo”t is meant to parallel the Keriat HaTorah BeTzibur. The “Shenayim Mikra” parallels the Oleh and Baal Korei, and the Targum is meant to symbolize the Meturgeman (public translator who used to, and still does in Yemenite Jewish congregations, translate Pesukim during Keriat HaTorah).

It seems the Raavan understands Shemo”t to be a Din in Keriat HaTorah. Additionally, he understands Keriat HaTorah to be a Chovat HaYachid, an obligation on the individual, but one that requires the individual to maintain an association with the community. Thus, even one who does not daven with a Minyan must discharge his obligation in a way that parallels the communal Keriat HaTorah.

The Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch

LeHalachah, the Poskim do not follow the opinion of the Raavan, and they maintain that everyone has an obligation in Shemo”t, even those who listen to Keriat HaTorah in shul. Such is the opinion of the Rambam (Hilchot Tefillah UNsiat Kapayim 13:25) as well as the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 285:1).

As opposed to the Raavan, these Poskim believe that Shemo”t is not a Din in Keriat HaTorah, but rather a component of the obligation of Talmud Torah that is done within a communal framework. Normally, there is no connection between individuals’ obligations of Talmud Torah, and each person can discharge his obligation with whatever subject matter he desires. One person can learn Masechet Sukah while another learns Masechet Gittin, and each has fulfilled his obligation. However, regarding Shemo”t, there is a standardized timeframe and subject matter for each individual’s obligation. In order to express that there is a communal aspect to this Din of Talmud Torah, there is a parallel between the Shemo”t of the individual and the Keriat HaTorah of the community: the “Shenayim Mikra” symbolizes the Oleh and Baal Korei, and the Targum is meant to parallel the Meturgeman.

The Hagahot Maimoniyot (Hilchot Tefillah UNsiat Kapayim 13:25) quotes the Din of Rabbeinu Simchah that even though the Ikar Mitzvah of Shemo”t is to complete the Parashah each week with the Tzibur, if one is unable to do so, he should finish all the Parshiyot by Shemini Atzeret, the day on which the Tzibur completes the Torah (in Eretz Yisrael). The Terumat HaDeshen (23) explains that establishing Shemini Atzeret, the day the Tzibur completes the Torah, as the deadline for finishing Shemo”t, shows that the purpose of Shemo”t is for each individual to finish the entire Torah every year.

Taking the Terumat HaDeshen’s explanation of Rabbeinu Simchah’s Din into account, it emerges that while Shemo”t may be an obligation upon the individual, it is still done within the communal framework and thus each person has the same deadline, the day on which the entire community finishes the Torah. This idea may also explain the Gemara’s language of “LeOlam Yashlim Adam Parshiyotav Im HaTzibur,” “A person should always complete his Parshiyot with the congregation.” It is “Parshiyotav,” “his Parshiyot,” because he has his own Chiyuv of Talmud Torah, but it is “Im HaTzibur,” “with the congregation,” because his personal obligation exists within the communal framework.

Within the approach that Shemo”t is a Din in Talmud Torah, there are two suggestions given to explain the purpose of this obligation. The Sefer HaChinuch (introduction) writes, “VeZehu Ameram Zal ‘LeOlam Yashlim Adam Parshiyotav Im HaTzibur’ Kedei SheYaskil BaDevarim Yoteir BiKroto Oto BeVeito,” “And this is the saying of the Sages: ‘A person should always complete his Parshiyot with the congregation’ so that he understands the matters better when he reads the Parashah at home.” In other words, the purpose of Shemo”t is to provide a person with a clearer and more profound understanding of Chumash.

An additional reason, cited by the Levush (O.C. 285:1), is that Shemo”t helps a person attain fluency in Chumash. The Tzlach (Berachot 8a) writes that the three readings include Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum symbolize the idea of “VeHaChut HaMshulash Lo ViMheirah Yinateik,” “A three-ply cord is not easily severed” (Kohelet 4:12). Perhaps the Tzlach’s reasoning follows that of the Levush; repetition and review of the Torah leads one to fluency in Torah, and by studying at least three times he will not forget the Torah.

What is the format of Shemo”t?

The Magen Avraham (O.C. 285:1) presents two opinions as to the correct format of Shemo”t. The Lechem Chamudot believes that one should recite each Pasuk twice and then the Targum for that Pasuk. However, the Shelah maintains that one should read the entire Parashah (in terms of Petuchot and Setumot – see Mishnah Berurah) twice and then the Targum for that Parashah.

The Aruch HaShulchan (O.C. 285:4) writes that the Shelah’s opinion is more logical because as the Midrash Torat Kohanim explains, Hashem taught the Torah to Moshe Parashah by Parashah in order to give him an opportunity to understand each section. If Shemo”t is a Din in Talmud Torah, then perhaps it would be understandable to follow the Shelah’s approach, because it was how Moshe Rabbeinu learned the Torah as well. However, if Shemo”t is a Din in Keriat HaTorah, then the approach of the Lechem Chamudot would be more logical, as the Pasuk-by-Pasuk format most directly parallels Keriat HaTorah, especially with the Raavan’s description of how the two Pesukim and one Targum symbolize the Oleh, Baal Korei, and Meturgeman.

What is Targum?

There are three approaches in the Rishonim and Geonim as to what is considered Targum for Shemo”t. In Siddur Rav Amram Gaon (2:31), it is written that Unkelus is preferred from amongst the Targumim because it was given at Har Sinai as the Gemara explains (Megillah 3a). Alternatively, the Rivavan (quoted as the “Yeish Mefarshim” in Tosafot Berachot 8a s.v. Shemo”t and in the Rosh Berachot 1:8) believes that Laaz (translation into another language) is as effective as Unkelus because both of them explain the Pasuk to the Amei HaAretz, which is the purpose of Targum. However, the Smag (Asin 19) writes that “Peirush” is better than Unkelus. The Tur (O.C. 285) and Rosh (ibid.) understand the Smag to mean that even though Laaz will not work for Targum, Peirush Rashi is better than Unkelus. The Mishnah Berurah (285:4 and 285:6) explains that the advantages of Peirush Rashi are that it explains the Torah more thoroughly than Unkelus and that it is based upon Divrei Chazal.

The Birkat Chaim (Berachot 8a) explains that the Machloket as to whether Peirush Rashi is considered Targum or not is based upon an understanding of the reason the “Echad Targum” was instituted. Is the main purpose of Targum simply a third Mikra, but instead of just reading the same Pasuk a third time, it is more beneficial to use Targum because it provides some understanding, or is the primary function of Targum to provide one with a clearer, deeper understanding of the Torah? If the reading of Targum was instituted to be a third Keriah, then Peirush Rashi could not be a substitute for Targum because it does not cover every Pasuk or every word. (Additionally, it is possible that Laaz would not work either because, as the Rivavan explains, Laaz is an explanation for Amei HaAretz and thus has no relevance to being a third Keriah.) Thus, the opinion of Rav Amram Gaon would be the most logical; because Unkelus was given at Har Sinai, it has some element of Kedushah, and one could be Yotzei his Chiyuv of Keriah with it. However, if the “Echad Targum” was instituted to provide additional explanation beyond the Mikra, then Peirush Rashi would be effective (as would Laaz).

However, it is possible to explain the Machloket not in terms of an understanding of the purpose of Targum, but as a debate regarding the nature of the Din of Shemo”t. According to Rav Amram Gaon, who holds that specifically Unkelus is required because it was transmitted at Har Sinai, Shemo”t is a Din in Keriat HaTorah. One cannot be Yotzei his Chiyuv with Rashi or Laaz because for Keriat HaTorah one needs to use a Targum that has an element of Kedushah. Additionally, it is possible that according to the Rivavan, as well, who allows the use of Laaz, Shemo”t is a Din in Keriat HaTorah and, thus, it must parallel Keriat HaTorah BeTzibur. Just like the Raavan explains that the Targum of Shemo”t parallels the Meturgeman whose role is to explain the Torah to Amei HaAretz, one can use any language that explains the Torah to him for Targum.

On the other hand, according to the Smag, Shemot is a type of Talmud Torah. Therefore, for Targum, one must use that which is based on Chazal and provides a clear understanding of the Torah, just like one must use for any type of Limud Torah. As the Mishnah Berurah describes, this is the definition of Peirush Rashi.

A Third Approach to Shemot

On the topic of Parashat HaShavua, the Rav develops the idea (such is how Rav Chaim Jachter told this author) that every Parashah characterizes the Shabbat on which it is read. For example, this Shabbat, during which Parashat Mikeitz is read, is not simply a regular Shabbat, but it is called – and in essence, it is – “Shabbat Parashat Mikeitz.” Rav Jachter further explains that the characterization of this Shabbat as Shabbat Parashat Mikeitz takes place both on the Tzibur level and on the Yachid level. Through Keriat HaTorah BeTzibur, the community distinguishes this Shabbat, and through Shemo”t, the individual characterizes this Shabbat as Shabbat Parashat Mikeitz. This idea could possibly explain why the Tur and Shulchan Aruch place Hilchot Shenayim Mikra in Hilchot Shabbat and not in Hilchot Keriat HaTorah or Hilchot Talmud Torah.

It is possible that this idea also explains several Shitot regarding the proper time to do Shemo”t. Tosafot (Berachot 8b s.v. Yashlim) quote the Midrash which records that Rebbi instructed his sons to complete Shemo”t before the first Shabbat meal. LeHalachah, Tosafot maintain that the Mitzvah Min HaMuvchar is to follow the custom of Rebbi, and the Tur (O.C. 285) also quotes this opinion. Additionally, the Maharam MeiRutenburg writes in a Teshuvah (1:247) that the preferred time for Shemo”t is specifically on Shabbat. Furthermore, the Shaarei Teshuvah (285:1) records that the practice of the Arizal was to learn Shemo”t after Shacharit on Erev Shabbat. If Shemo”t is a Din in the definition of Shabbat, then it is understandable that there is an idea to finish the Parashah before the first Shabbat meal or to specifically learn the Parashah on Shabbat. Even according the Arizal, Shemo”t may be part of the preparations one must do for Shabbat, although it is also possible that his practice is based on Kabbalah.