With the exception of the last day(s) of Pesach, the shehecheyanu blessing is recited as part of the Yom Tov candle lighting and evening Kiddush. While most men generally fulfill their requirement to recite shehecheyanu by reciting it (or hearing it) as part of the Kiddush, most women recite it as part of the Yom Tov candle lighting.1
Although there is an opinion that women should not recite the shehecheyanu blessing at candle lighting, but rather wait to hear it as part of Kiddush,2 common custom is not like this view. Indeed, women whose family custom is to recite shehecheyanu at candle lighting should be sure to do so, regardless of all other considerations.3 If, for whatever reason, one did not recite or hear the shehecheyanu blessing at the start of the holiday, one may recite it any time one remembers throughout the duration of the holiday.4
There is much discussion as to whether a woman who recited shehecheyanu as part of her candle lighting should answer amen when hearing it recited later on at Kiddush. This is because, according to some authorities, if she already discharged her obligation to recite the shehecheyanu blessing, responding amen to the shehecheyanu of Kiddush would be a hefsek (a forbidden interruption) between Kiddush and drinking the wine.5 Indeed, a woman who recites Kiddush for herself on Yom Tov night does not repeat shehecheyanu at Kiddush if she recited it earlier at candle lighting.
Similarly, according to this approach, a woman who recited shehecheyanu at candle lighting does not respond amen to the shehecheyanu at Kiddush either.
Some authorities rule that a woman should not answer amen to the shehecheyanu recited as part of Kiddush, with the exception of the Pesach Seder, at which time she should. The reason for the difference is that the shehecheyanu recited as part of Kiddush on Pesach also serves to cover the other mitzvot of the evening, such as the four cups of wine and eating matzah. It would therefore not be a hefsek to respond amen to this shehecheyanu. Some also add the Kiddush that is recited on Sukkot eve to this exception, because the shehecheyanu recited at that time serves to cover the mitzvot of Sukkot.6
Most other authorities, however, permit a woman who recited shehecheyanu at candle lighting to respond amen when hearing it again as part of Kiddush throughout the year. They argue that the shehecheyanu recited as part of the Kiddush is an inherent and integral component of the Kiddush that a woman must hear before she is permitted to eat the Yom Tov meal. Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that just as the shehecheyanu blessing is not a hefsek for the one reciting Kiddush, it is automatically not considered to be a hefsek for those listening to his Kiddush, even if they already fulfilled their shehecheyanu requirement when lighting the candles. According to this approach, answering amen is not considered to be a hefsek.7
My friend Rav Yonatan Shai Freedman tells me that when he got married, he asked Rav Aharon Lichtenstein how his wife should conduct herself with regard to the shehecheyanu on the Yom Tov candles. He told him that she should recite shehecheyanu on the candles. He then asked him if he should instruct his wife not to answer amen at Kiddush due to the question of hefsek. He told him that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach railed against the view that answering amen is a hefsek, calling it “the newest frumkeit.” Rav Lichtenstein affirmed that women should answer amen to the shehecheyanu at Kiddush, saying that “if this were really an issue, they would have come up with it more than a generation ago.”
It is important to point out that the concern that answering amen to the shehecheyanu blessing recited as part of Kiddush might be a hefsek is only relevant for a woman who intends to drink from the Kiddush wine (or grape juice). A woman who does not have the custom to drink some of the wine upon which Kiddush was recited is certainly permitted to answer amen to the shehecheyanu blessing. This is because only the one who actually recited the Kiddush is required to drink any of the wine or grape juice. There is no true obligation for others present to drink any of the Kiddush wine, even though widespread custom is to do so.8
Interestingly, in most Yemenite communities, especially among the Baladi and Dardaim, Yom Tov candles are not lit at all! Even those who do light Yom Tov candles generally do so without reciting the accompanying blessing.9 This is because there is no mention of a requirement to light Yom Tov candles in either the Gemara10 or Rambam11 – the two almost exclusive sources of halacha for Yemenite Jewry. Indeed, the primary reason we light Shabbat candles is due to the requirement of shalom bayit, so that there should be light in the home on Shabbat eve.12 On Yom Tov, however, one is permitted to light a fire (from a preexisting flame) at any time during the holiday, and therefore, there is no true need for Yom Tov candles at all!
1 Mateh Ephraim 581:54.
2 Leket Yosher, p. 49; She’eilat Ya’avetz 107; Mishna Berura 263:23; Tzitz Eliezer 14:53; Yechave Da’at 3:34.
4 Mishna Berura 473:1.
5 Har Tzvi 154; Shevet Halevi 3:69. See also Sha’arei Teshuva 167:3.
6 Shevet Halevi 3:69. See also Kaf Hachaim, OC 473:6.
7 Aruch HaShulchan, OC 263:12; Be’er Moshe 8:215; Igrot Moshe, OC 4:101, 4:21:9; Rivevot Ephraim 1:182; Minchat Shlomo 2:58:2. See also Nitei Gavriel, Erev Pesach Sh’chal B’Erev Shabbat, Teshuva 1.
8 For more on the issue of participants drinking from the Kiddush wine, see OC 271:14; Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 48:11; and Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 190:5.
9 Pe’ulat Tzaddik 3:270; Arichat HaShulchan 2:178. Some Rishonim hold that no blessing is recited on Shabbat candles either. See Tosafot, Shabbat 25a, s.v. “Chova,” and Da’at Zekeinim Mi’ba’alei Hatosafot, Vayikra 24:2.
10 The sefarim do make mention of a “Yerushalmi” that requires the lighting of yom tov candles. However, no such passage exists in the version of the Talmud Yerushalmi that we have today. It might just be that this reference to a “Yerushalmi” is not referring to the Talmud Yerushalmi, but to a book of customs from medieval Germany entitled Yerushalmi.
11 The Rambam, in his Perush Hamishnayot to Shabbat 2:3, does mention a requirement to light yom tov candles. Nevertheless, as a general rule, only what the Rambam wrote in his Mishna Torah is considered to be authoritative for the purpose of halachic consideration. It is also believed that the Rambam held that the issue was a dispute between the Bavli and Yerushalmi, and therefore did not include it in his Mishna Torah.
- Shabbat 25b.