Question: I am contemplating traveling to Israel. My flight will take place during Chanukah, which means that I may miss one night’s candle lighting. What are my options?
Summary of our response up to this point: Last week we assured the reader that traveling during Chanukah is permissible and one may continue lighting menorah every night of Chanukah even if one missed one night.
A baraisa in Tractate Shabbos (Bameh Madlikin 21b) states, “Mitzvatah mi’shetishka hachama ad shetichleh regel min hashuk – The time for [lighting menorah] is from when the sun sets (shekiah) until pedestrian traffic in the marketplace has ceased.” Although it is preferable to light as soon as possible, i.e., after sunset, the baraisa informs us how late we can light as well as how much oil is needed for the menorah to burn the minimum amount of time.
Based on the specific language of this Talmudic passage, the Mordechai, citing R. Meir of Rothenburg, states that if one missed lighting menorah on one night of Chanukah, one does not light on subsequent nights. (This is also understood to be the position of the Rambam.) The Tur (Orach Chayim 672) disagrees, and the Beit Yosef in his commentary ad loc. discusses several halachic sources regarding this matter.
* * * * * After quoting a “teshuva ashkenazit,” which suggests a different reading of the Maharam of Rothenburg’s opinion on lighting menorah if one missed lighting one night – a reading which would permit lighting on subsequent nights – the Beit Yosef cites the Aguddah (a collection of halachic decisions authored by R. Alexander Suslin of Frankfort, the last of the early German halachic authorities, 14th century) to the effect that missing lighting one night does not affect one’s obligation on subsequent nights since the miracle of the oil occurred every day of Chanukah. Lighting menorah is not comparable to Sefirat HaOmer, where the mitzvah is to count “sheva Shabbatot temimot – seven complete weeks” so that missing one night precludes a proper fulfillment of the mitzvah.
The Beit Yosef cites Sefer haRoke’ach (authored by Eleazar b. Judah of Worms, early 13th century) who also understands the phrase “he does not light on the other nights” to refer to the lost opportunity. In other words, a person who misses lighting one night cannot make up for it (as one can, for example, “make up” a prayer one has missed by reciting two Shemoneh Esreis during the next tefillah [see Berachot 26a]). The Beit Yosef also points out that this is how the Shibbolei HaLeket (a halachic compendium by Zedekia b. Abraham Anav, 13th century, Rome) understood the Maharam of Rothenburg’s statement.
He points out that the text of the Orchot Chayyim – concerning such scenarios in which someone only lit two candles on the third night of Chanukah – refers to the procedure adopted in Lunel, France, which followed a stringent interpretation of halacha that one has to “make up” for the night one missed. He adds that one was not required in Lunel to recite extra blessings (to make up for the previous night) since the blessings one recites before lighting menorah includes all the candles.
(It is difficult to understand the exact circumstances referred to. If the person lights all the candles at once – both the ones for that night plus the ones for the previous night – it is obvious that no extra blessings are required. However, the quoted text seems to indicate that the person should proceed with two candle lightings, one for the night he missed and one for the current night.)
The Beit Yosef also quotes a responsum of the Rashba (R. Shlomo b. Adret, 13th century, Spain), who writes that one who missed lighting menorah on any of the nights of Chanukah should not light anymore because it has already been delayed from its proper time (“dachui – pushed aside”). He explains the Rashba’s wording to mean that a person cannot compensate for the night he missed lighting, but he should light on the following nights (similar to the alternative reading of the Maharam of Rothenburg’s text).
Regarding the time one is permitted to start lighting menorah, the Beit Yosef notes that the very specific text of the baraisa – “mi’shetishka hachama” – indicates that it is prohibited to light earlier than sunset. But he cites the Ran (Nissim b. Reuben Gerondi, 14th century, Spain) to the effect that this is not the case. One may light earlier. (We can conceive of circumstances beyond one’s control – such as when traveling – when one has little choice but to light menorah earlier.) However, a person who lights earlier would not be fulfilling the essence of the commandment (ikar mitzvatah).