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Q & A: Traveling And Missing Menorah Lighting (Part II)

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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?

Yaakov J
(Via E-Mail)

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).

The Ba’al Halachot Gedolot (a halachic code of the Geonic period), which the Beit Yosef also quotes, understands “mi’shetishka hachama” as being very definite – namely, not before sunset. And so does the Rambam (as can be seen from the way he quotes and explains the text). Thus, the baraisa’s language sets the time frame of lighting and one may not light either before or after.

The Darchei Moshe – the commentary on the Tur by the Rema – notes that one who has missed lighting menorah on one of the nights of Chanukah should proceed to light the normal number of candles on subsequent nights. He cites the Maharil (Morenu HaRav Yaakov HaLevi Moellin, 14th-15th century, Mainz) and the Aguddah as his sources; he disputes the Maharam of Rothenburg who suggests that if one has not lit on the first night of Chanukah, one should only light one candle on the second night because it is the first night of lighting for him.

In the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 672), the Mechaber states (as he did in his explanation on the Rashba’s responsum) that one cannot compensate for missing lighting menorah – “ein lo tashlumin.” The Rema (ad loc.) remarks: “But he lights on subsequent nights,” adding (as in his Darchei Moshe commentary on the Tur) that he should not act differently than other people (i.e., he should light the same number of candles they light). The fact that the Rema finds it necessary to make this remark suggests that the Mechaber does not agree that he may light menorah on subsequent nights – which is at odds with his commentary (Beit Yosef) on the Tur.

According to the Ateret Zekeinim (ad loc.) we might explain the Rema’s understanding of the Mechaber’s “ein lo tashlumin,” not as prohibiting lighting on subsequent nights, but as referring to compensation for having lit fewer than the required numbers of candles on a particular night. He may add such candle(s) the next night without reciting additional blessings (as per the Orchot Chayim, quoted earlier).

The Gra explains that the mitzvah of lighting menorah is similar to the mitzvah of dwelling in a sukkah. We may erect a sukkah on Chol Hamo’ed if it was not possible to do so before the festival because the mitzvah of eating and sitting in a sukkah applies each and every day of the holiday. Likewise, the miracle of the oil took place on each of the eight days of Chanukah. Therefore, lighting menorah is obligatory on every night of Chanukah. He adds that it is not similar to counting omer, where omitting a single day causes a breach in the continuity of the count, since the Torah specifically states about the omer (Vayikra 23:15): “Sheva Shabbatot temimot tihyena – Seven complete weeks shall there be.”

It is abundantly clear from all of the above that a person who misses lighting menorah on one night should light menorah on subsequent nights.

As for your situation, you will either be at the airport or on an airplane at the time when lighting menorah becomes obligatory – both being places where authorities do not permit lighting a flame. As such, you are considered an onnes, a person who is prevented from fulfilling a mitzvah due to circumstances beyond his control. Hence, the rule “onnes rachmana patrei – one who is prevented due to circumstances beyond one’s control is relieved of one’s obligation” applies.

After submitting your original question, you showed me small battery-powered bulbs which you would be allowed to light on an airplane. That brings us to the following discussion.

Rabbi Chayim Ozer Grodzinski (Responsa Achiezer, Orach Chayim 6) discusses electricity on Shabbat. Quoting R. Yitzhak Shmelkes (Minhat Yitzhak, Yoreh De’ah, Responsum 120; Yoreh De’ah Vol. 2, Responsum 31), he refers to the liabilities incurred for kibbui (extinguishing), which is not allowed on Shabbat, and equates electricity with a flame. He permits reciting the proper blessing (over electric lights) for the mitzvah of lighting Shabbat candles, but adds that regarding Chanukah, one should use olive oil to fulfill the mitzvah in its optimal fashion.

Rabbi Grodzinski thus leaves us with the possibility of kindling nerot Chanukah with electric lights. However, we assume from his discussion that this would be without reciting the blessings.

Rabbi Meir Blumenfeld of Newark, NJ, rules (Perach Shoshana, Responsa 54) that while he would not generally allow using electricity to fulfill the mitzvot of lighting Shabbat and Chanukah candles, we may be lenient where open flames are prohibited, such as in a hospital. No blessings, however, should be recited.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (in Yechaveh Da’at 38)) also discusses this matter at length and opts to invalidate electric lights for the purpose of lighting menorah; he emphasizes that Chanukah lights must possess both oil and wicks. He does, however, note one authority, Rabbi Mordechai Fogelman (Beit Mordechai 40), who would permit someone who passes near a synagogue displaying an electric menorah on its roof to recite the blessing of “she’asah nissim” (but not “lehadlik ner,” since he has not kindled any light) – provided the menorah is located less than 20 amot above the ground and he does not also light at home. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef disagrees and does not allow reciting “she’asah nissim” in such a case, commenting that doing so would be constitute a berachah levatalah (uttering G-d’s Name in vain).

In his summation, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef states that a person does not fulfill the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles with an electric menorah, but agrees that if someone has no other menorah he should light it without a blessing. If he comes upon a kosher menorah later on, he should kindle it and recite the blessings.

In answer to your original question, we see from the various opinions that if one has no other choice, an electric menorah may be lit but the usual blessings should not be recited. It should be noted that the blessings do not constitute the mitzvah; in other words, not reciting them does not detract from one’s fulfillment of the mitzvah (as the Gemara teaches us – see Berachot 15a and Rashi ad loc. s.v. lo yitrom” and “beracha deRabbanan he”).

I think your own solution is ingenious. You should use the battery-powered light bulbs you showed me. Where no other possibility exists, such as on an aircraft, by all means use them to publicize the great miracle of Chanukah. Hopefully, through such actions, the miracle of our redemption will arrive that much sooner.

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


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