Question: My husband and I are frequent Shabbos guests at our children’s homes nearby. Where should I light Shabbos candles – in my home or theirs?
Answer: The Rema (Orach Chayim 263:10) citing Or Zarua, states that the main purpose of lighting Shabbat candles is to provide light for the table, i.e., the dining room where one eats. He also cites the Mordechai (Perek Bameh Madlikin, Mesechet Shabbos) who maintains that one should not light candles in one place and transfer them to another.
A similar question to the one you asked was posed to the Gaon Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvot V’Hanhagot 2:154): When a husband and wife are invited out Friday night, should she light candles where they are eating or at home where they are sleeping?
Rabbi Sternbuch answered that if it is equally possible for her to light in both places, it is better to light where she eats as in that manner the light serve the purpose of kevod Shabbat (honoring the Sabbath) rather than just that of pleasure.
If she lights at home instead, Rabbi Sternbuch seems to indicate that she should do so in her bedroom. Since the main reason to light there is not stumbling or falling on any “wood or stone,” she should first turn off the electric light and then turn it back on before lighting Shabbat candles. If she doesn’t turn them off first, there might be some doubt as to what purpose the Shabbat candles are serving (and the blessing might be considered a beracha levatalah).
If one lights Shabbat candles in the room where one eats one’s seudah, a blessing is appropriate even if other lights are on since in that instance additional light enhances the honor of Shabbat.
Rabbi Sternbuch cites a more stringent view – that even when one lights candles in the dining room, it is proper to first turn off the electric lights and immediately turn them on again, and then light Shabbat candles and recite the blessing “l’hadlik ner…” over both. In this manner, one satisfies the strict view of the Mechaber (Orach Chayim 263:8), who opines that if a light is already lit, one should not say a blessing over kindling an additional light.
Rabbi Sternbuch adds, “Even as regards to the Rema (ad loc.), who in his glosses states that this rule does not apply to us (i.e., is not the custom of Ashkenazic Jews)…if the existing light is electric, which is as bright as daylight, even the Rema would probably agree that one should not recite a blessing [upon kindling an additonal light].”
Rabbi Sternbuch notes: “I have heard that the practice in the home of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, was that they would first turn off the electric light and then turn it on again before lighting Shabbat candles.
“According to the strict letter of the law, there is no need to first turn off the electric lights in a room where one is eating because even though there are electric lights, kevod Shabbat is only accomplished with Shabbat candles.
“On the other hand, when a woman lights candles in her sleeping quarters, where the light only serves to save one from falling over any unseen obstacles, it is proper to first turn off the electric light and then turn it on again, as we stated above. That is, of course, provided the host/hostess of the place where they are eating will be lighting candles and thus also fulfill the guests’ obligation to honor Shabbat.”
Rabbi Sternbuch relates that he heard of a yeshiva student who was often a guest on Shabbat who asked the Chazon Ish, Rav Yeshaya Karelitz, zt”l, whether it was preferable to light candles in the place where he ate or in the dormitory where he slept. The Chazon Ish said he should light in his sleeping quarters and eat some mezonot upon returning to his room at night.
To summarize: In a room where one eats, a blessing is recited when lighting Shabbat candles even if electric lights are already on. In a bedroom, however, a woman is required to turn off the electric light and either request someone else to turn it on again or herself turn the light on again and then light candles and recite the blessing.
Concerning lighting candles in one’s hosts’ home: The rule of ribbui neirot – an increase of candles adding to kavod of Shabbat – should apply, which would allow her to recite a blessing even if other candles have already been lit.
(To be continued)