Traveling on Chanukah
Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah
Question: When one is away from home on Chanukah, how does one determine where to light?
Discussion: This question involves many common scenarios, and is subject to many variations. We will present the basic principles, and then address their applications in practice.
The mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles was set forth by Chazal as an obligation for every individual to have Chanukah lights lit in his home. That is to say, the mitzvah is on the one hand a personal obligation, incumbent on each individual; but on the other hand an obligation related to the home.41 This unique formulation provides the basis for much discussion and debate,42 but for our purposes, we will cite two primary implications: First, the obligation must be fulfilled specifically in one’s home (as defined below).43 Second, one’s personal obligation can be fulfilled through a menorah lit in one’s home even if he did not light it personally. Thus, for example, a single menorah lit in the home can suffice for the entire household44 – each member of the house is considered to have fulfilled his personal obligation through that single menorah.45 Moreover, one can fulfill his obligation through a menorah lit in his home even if he is not at home, subject to certain conditions (as will be discussed below, page 603).
However, there can be additional factors in determining whether and where a person should light. These include:
In general, Ashkenazi custom is for each household member to light personally and not suffice with a single lighting for the entire household. This is considered the optimal enhancement of the mitzvah (mehadrin min hamehadrin).46
There is an opinion that aside from the obligation to light the menorah, there is an independent obligation to see the Chanukah lights. According to this opinion, in cases where one would otherwise not see the Chanukah lights, he would be obligated to light for this reason alone even if he could essentially fulfill his obligation through a menorah lit in his home. While the essential halachah does not follow this opinion, the Poskim do instruct that, when it is relevant, one should light his own candles in deference to this opinion.47
Now let us approach the subject of a visitor. A visitor can be considered as residing in the place where he is staying. However, this will depend on how long he is staying. We distinguish between: 1) one who is visiting someone else for a meal or the like, and will be returning home later in the evening; 2) one who will be staying in someone else’s home overnight, and 3) one who is lodging somewhere else on a long-term basis. Let us address the particulars of each case separately:
Question: If one is visiting with friends or relatives at the time of candle-lighting, but will be returning home that night, may he light at his host’s house?
Discussion: A guest visiting in someone’s home for a meal on a non-regular basis is not considered as residing there and he cannot fulfill the mitzvah by lighting there. Rather, he continues to be considered as residing at home – where he eats and sleeps regularly – and that is where he must light.48 When the time for lighting comes, he must leave and go home to light, or have a family member light for him at home (though it is a bigger mitzvah to light oneself).49
Question: If someone is away from home overnight, how should he fulfill the mitzvah of lighting the menorah?
Discussion: If one is away from home overnight, we will generally consider the place where he is staying as his “home” for this night of Chanukah, and that is where his obligation will be.50 However, the precise laws will depend on the specifics of the case, as follows:
In a case where one’s spouse is at home, and will be lighting there, one can consider his obligation as fulfilled through the Chanukah lights lit in his home – even though he is not there.51 Accordingly, he has no obligation at all in the place where he is staying. Yet, one can choose to light where he is and fulfill his obligation through his own lighting. In fact, it is preferable to do so, so as to fulfill the mitzvah at the mehadrin level, whereby each person lights individually.52 However, since some maintain that one is inevitably included in his wife’s lighting – in which case a berachah over his own lighting would be in vain – it is preferred that one either listen to someone else’s berachah, or make sure to light his own menorah before his wife lights.53 In this latter case, by fulfilling the mitzvah yet before his wife lights, all agree that he has effectively avoided being included in her lighting and his berachah is warranted.
There are situations where there is more reason to light on one’s own and not suffice with his spouse’s lighting back at home:
If one is in an area where – unless he lights on his own – he will not see any Chanukah lights, he should light on his own rather than fulfill his obligation through his wife’s lighting. This is to accommodate the opinion that there is an independent obligation to see the Chanukah lights. Lechatchilah, a person lighting in such circumstances should make a point of lighting before his wife lights, so as to definitely not be included in her lighting, and to thereby be able to recite the berachos.54
If the husband and wife are in different time zones, some Poskim maintain that the husband is not included in his wife’s lighting (regardless of whether he is ahead of her or behind her in time).55 Others maintain that it depends:56 If the husband is behind his wife in time, he cannot fulfill his obligation with his wife’s lighting. Since she is lighting at a time when the mitzvah is not in effect at all where the he is (since it is not yet night there), he cannot fulfill his obligation then. However, if the husband is ahead of his wife in time, his wife’s lighting does fulfill his obligation, because she is lighting at a time when he too is obligated in the mitzvah. Yet other Poskim allow the husband to rely on his wife’s lighting in all cases – even if he is behind her in time.57
In practice, in a case where the husband is behind his wife in time, he should intend not to fulfill his obligation through his wife’s lighting, and rather light his own candles.58
In a case where one is away from home overnight and his spouse is not lighting at home, as well as in the case of an unmarried guest:
The traveler is considering as residing in the place where he is staying for this night, and that is where he must light the menorah. He is not naturally included in his host’s lighting (contrary to a person living at home, whose obligation is discharged through a menorah lit on behalf of the entire household). This is because a short-term guest is not considered a household member. Thus, he has two options: The first is to participate in his host’s lighting. This is done by paying a minimal amount towards the cost of the oil or candles,59 or by the host granting him a share of the oil as a gift, with the guest performing a kinyan (namely, lifting it up 8-10 cm.).60 One who follows this approach should hear his host’s recitation of the berachos.61 The second option is for the guest to light his own candles in his host’s home. It is preferred that he light personally, so as to fulfill the mitzvah at the mehadrin level.62
Of course, if one is in a place where there is no host lighting, he must light his own candles.
Question: If one lodges in someone else’s home on a long-term basis, what are the rules regarding his Chanukah lighting?
Discussion: Someone who lodges in someone else’s home on a long-term basis is considered a member of the household. Thus, he is included in his host’s lighting, and essentially is not required to light at all or even participate in his host’s lighting. However, those who follow Ashkenazi custom – whereby every member of the household lights personally in order to fulfill the precept of mehadrin – would light personally in any event (as would any other household member).63
Question: How long must one stay at his host’s home in order to be considered a member of the household?
Discussion: The length of time that renders one a household member is unclear.64 Some Poskim rule that a minimum stay of thirty days renders one a household member.65 Others suggest that it does not depend so much on the length of time, as much as on the nature of one’s stay. If one is there for some purpose that requires him to settle in on a long-term basis, he is considered a household member – irrespective of the precise number of days. For example, a person hired as a live-in, a student settling in for a semester, or a person who has a job in this area. If the stay is of a temporary nature – for example, one is in the area to tend to some business matter, and then to return home – one is not considered a household member.66
One who does intend to stay for the long term – as defined by each opinion respectively – is considered a member of the household from the beginning of his stay.67
Question: If a guest has his own quarters, but eats his meals with his host, where should he light his Chanukah candles?
Discussion: If one sleeps in one place but eats elsewhere on a regular basis, his place of eating is considered his primary place of residence for Chanukah purposes.68 Thus, a person who has his own quarters, but eats at his host’s table, should light with his host as per the instructions provided above for a guest in someone else’s home.
Question: If one has a set place for sleeping, but eats his meals in various places, where does he light?
Discussion: In this case, one lights in his sleeping quarters. If he boards in someone’s home, he follows the instructions provided for a guest.69
Question: If one is leaving his home for Shabbos, and intends to return home on motzei Shabbos, where should he light on erev Shabbos, and where should he light on motzei Shabbos?
Discussion: On erev Shabbos, he is like any other traveler – since he will be away from home overnight, he lights in the place where he will be staying (according to the guidelines discussed above). However, after Shabbos, when he will be sleeping at home, but will be arriving there only past the time for lighting (which is for a short time after Shabbos), there is debate among the Poskim as to the preferred approach. Some consider it preferable to light immediately after Shabbos at the place where one is staying, provided that one remains there for a half an hour after lighting.70 Others rule that one should light only when he arrives home. According to this approach, if one lights outside, and will be arriving at a late hour when traffic in the street has already subsided, one should have someone else light for him at his home at the correct time, immediately after Shabbos71 (see below, pp. 605-606, for further detail regarding one who is arriving home late at night).
Question: Where does a guest at a hotel light?
Discussion: As we will see, Chanukah may not be the ideal time to visit a hotel, as Chanukah lighting in a hotel can become quite questionable – often compromising, and possibly even negating, the mitzvah of lighting the menorah. In any event, before planning a trip to a hotel on Chanukah, it is advisable to inquire in advance as to whether it will be possible to light the candles in an optimal way.
Note also: if someone in the family is remaining at home and is lighting there, the others can fulfill their obligation through his or her lighting (as discussed above). Although it is generally preferred that each person light on his own, it is better to rely on the lighting of the person at home – through which one definitely fulfills the obligation – than to rely on questionable lighting arrangements.
According to a number of Poskim, the ideal place to light is in one’s room, in a window facing the street.72 If this is not possible (especially considering that often, hotel regulations will not allow lighting in the bedrooms), one should light in the dining hall73 – but without reciting the berachah74).
Arrangements that involve lighting in a lobby, in a hallway, or in other such areas, are highly questionable, and one should not recite the berachah in such cases. When this is the only option – and certainly when even this is not an option – one should light there, but also light a flashlight in one’s room without reciting a berachah.75 Preferably, one should set it up in a way that makes it clear that it was lit for the mitzvah, and not for illumination. Of course, one should try to avoid such a scenario.76
Question: Where should a patient in a hospital light?
Discussion: The reality of a hospital is similar to that of a hotel, discussed above. If possible, one should light in a window facing the street. If this is not possible, then if a family member is lighting at home, one should rely on that lighting. If not, one should follow the instructions provided for a person staying at a hotel.
Question: If a person will be travelling throughout the time of Chanukah lighting, how does he fulfill the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles?
Discussion: This depends on a number of factors:
If there is someone at home who will be lighting, then one fulfills his obligation through that lighting (see above, for the particulars of fulfilling one’s obligation through his spouse’s lighting at home).
If this is not an option, then it depends when one sets out, and when he will arrive at his destination:
If one will be leaving after plag haminchah, we must consider whether it is better to light before leaving even though it is before the ideal time, or only upon arriving at his destination late at night. This depends on the following:77
If one lights outside, or if one lights inside but will be arriving only after everyone is asleep, he should light before leaving (after plag haminchah).
If one lights inside, and someone else in the house will still be awake when he arrives, he should light when he arrives.
If one is leaving before plag haminchah, and will be arriving late at night, he should light when he arrives at his destination. If at that time, someone else is with him and awake, he should light with a berachah.78
If he will arrive only after daybreak, then his only potential option is to light en-route. If and how one can fulfill his obligation en-route can be quite questionable, and it can also depend on how one will be traveling. This is a situation that should generally be avoided (unless, again, someone will be lighting at home, in which case the traveler can fulfill his obligation through the candles lit at home, as above). In a case of necessity, a Rav should be consulted.
Question: If one is moving from one home to another during Chanukah – where does one light?
Discussion: One must light in the home that he is in when the time for lighting comes. If one is still in his first home when the time for lighting arrives, he should light before leaving – even though he will be leaving it permanently shortly afterwards.79 If he will be leaving before the time for lighting arrives, he should light upon arriving in his new home.
Question: If one gets married on Chanukah, where should he light?
Discussion: He should light upon arriving in his new home after the wedding, as long as it is before daybreak.80
Question: What are the rules regarding a Yeshivah student who lodges in his Yeshivah?
Discussion: According to many Poskim, a student lodging in his Yeshivah is no longer considered a member of his parent’s household, and cannot fulfill his obligation through his father’s lighting back at home.81 Moreover, even if we were to consider the student a “household member” of the Yeshivah, who can generally be included in his host’s lighting,82 there is most often no “host” lighting in the Yeshivah.83 Therefore, each student remains personally obligated in the mitzvah.
Some maintain that one student can light on behalf of all the others, with oil that is jointly owned.84 This may be relied on if necessary, but it is not the preferred choice. First of all, some question whether two independent people lodging together have the option of joining together for the lighting, by one acquiring a share in the other’s oil. This method might be limited to a guest joining his host’s lighting.85 Additionally, it is always preferred that each individual light separately, to fulfill the mitzvah at the mehadrin min hamehadrin level. Therefore, if possible, it is best that each student light for himself.86
Note: Many Sephardi Poskim rule that a Sephardi yeshivah student is considered to be a member of his parents’ household, and his obligation is fulfilled by his father’s lighting. And according to Sephardic custom, there is no mehadrin precept for each person to light on his own – a menorah lit by the head of the household suffices for all. Thus, according to this approach, it is perfectly acceptable for a Sephardic student not to light at all in his Yeshivah. If a Sephardic student wishes to light in his Yeshivah anyways, he should do so without reciting a berachah, or listen to the berachah made by an Ashkenazi student.87
Question: If the dining room of a Yeshivah is located in one building, and the dormitory is located elsewhere, where should the student light? And in areas where they light inside, should one prefer to light in the window of the dining room, or of the dormitory?
Discussion: If the dormitory and the dining room are in different places, some Poskim rule that the student should light in the dining room, as per the general rule88 that one’s place of eating is considered his primary place of residence.89 Others argue that a Yeshivah dining room cannot be considered one’s place of residence, since the student’s access to the dining room is very limited. Rather, these Poskim rule, the student should light in the dormitory building, which he has regular access to, and which is where he tends to most of his domestic needs.90
41 Pnei Yehoshua Shabbos 21b ד"ה תנו ibid.
42 There is much discussion as to whether the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles is primarily a personal obligation or a home-related obligation (similar to mezuzah); see Ran, Shabbos 10a, ד"ה אמר רב ששת; see also Pnei Yehoshua, Shabbos 21b ד"ה תנו; Sefas Emes there.
43 See Tosafos Sukkah 46a ד"ה הרואה; Rashi, Shabbos 23a ד"ה הרואה. However, a place where a person is spending the night can be defined as his home for that night of Chanukah, even if it is not actually his home. This will be discussed below, page 604.
44 Rashi, Shabbos 21b.
45 Note, however, that in order to fulfill one’s personal obligation through a menorah lit in his home, the menorah must be considered as lit on his behalf. For example, a menorah lit by the head of the household for the entire household, will fulfill the obligation of each household member. However, if a menorah lit in one’s residence has nothing to do with him – for example, two unrelated people share an apartment together – one will not fulfill his obligation through the other’s lighting. This point and its implications will be discussed below, page 606.
46 See Shabbos 21b; Rema 671:2.
47 See Shulchan Aruch and Rema 677:3, with Mishnah Berurah note 14.
48 Taz 677, note 2; Magen Avraham ad loc., note 7; Mishnah Berurah ad loc., note 12. As noted, this is so even if the guest eats a meal in his host’s home. Although we maintain that a person who eats in one place and sleeps elsewhere is considered to be primarily residing in the place where he eats (see below, page 604), that is only if one eats there on a regular basis, not if one merely visits for one meal.
49 Mishnah Berurah ibid.
50 See Halichos Shlomo, 14:18, notes 32-34 (cf. Shevus Yitzchak, V, 6:3). A number of Poskim stipulate that if one is merely staying for one night, he must also eat there in order for the place where he is staying to be considered his home (Halichos Shlomo ibid. note 33; see also Ma’aseh Ish IV, pg. 132).
51 Shabbos 23a; Shulchan Aruch 676:3; 677:1.
52 Rema 677:3, Magen Avraham 677:9 citing Terumas Hadeshen. Earlier Poskim cite an additional reason: so as not to be suspected by the people around him of failing to fulfill the mitzvah. However, contemporary Poskim write that this is not a concern nowadays; since people light in so many different places, one would not be suspected of failing to light if others did not see where he lit (see Chut Shani, p. 315; Halichos Shlomo 13:11).
53 Mishnah Berurah 677 note 16.
54 Shulchan Aruch and Rema 677:3; Mishnah Berurah notes 14-16.
55 R’ Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Ner Tzion, Kislev, Chapter 5, note 59).
56 R’ Moshe Feinstein (Shemaatsa D’Moshe, Shemuas Moshe 677:6; R’ Yisrael Ya’akov Fisher (Ta’arich Yisrael 22:16); Minchas Yitzchak VII:46.
57 R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo, II:56:2, Devar Halachah 3); R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Ta’arich Yisrael 22:17).
58 Minchas Yitzchak VII:46; R’ Chaim Kanievsky (Ta’arich Yisrael 22:16). In this case, although one is lighting after his wife, there are comfortably sufficient grounds to allow him to light with a berachah.
59 Shabbos 23a; Shulchan Aruch 677:1.
60 Mishnah Berurah 677, note 3 with Sha’ar Hatziyun note 9.
61 Mishnah Berurah, 677, note 4.
62 Rema 677:3, Magen Avraham 677:9 quoting Terumas Hadeshen. In this case all agree that he may recite a berachah since no one is lighting for him at home.
63 Shulchan Aruch and Rema 671:1, with Mishnah Berurah notes 1 and 4.
64 See Chovas Hadar, Ner Chanukah, Chapter 2, footnote 3.
65 R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Shevus Yitzchak, VIII, 14:1 with footnote 20).
66 Chovas Hadar ibid.
67 Shevus Yitzchak ibid.
68 Note: this does not include a person who eats in a particular restaurant on a regular basis. Since he has no arrangement to eat there regularly, it cannot be considered a place of residence – even though, in reality, he eats there every day. In the absence of a regular arrangement, every day is viewed as a one-time occurrence.
69 Chovas Hadar, Ner Chanukah, Chapter 2, footnote 10; Shevus Yitzchak, V 6:1.
70 R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo 14:19). [Chut Shani (675:5, p. 310) similarly states that one may light where he was for Shabbos, but does not mention the requirement to remain there afterwards.]
71 Chazon Ish (Ma’asei Ish, Vol. 4, pg. 132).
72 Ohr Letzion IV, 47:8; Teshuvos Vehanhagos, III, 215:14. Note that even this can often be less than ideal, in situations where one’s room is higher than twenty amos from street level.
73 Teshuvos Vehanhagos, III 215:14.
74 In deference to the Poskim who hold that a dining hall cannot be considered one’s residence (see below, with footnote 90), according to which lighting there does not fulfill one’s obligation, and the berachah recited would be in vain.
75 Today almost all flashlights contain LED bulbs. According to most contemporary Poskim, even those who considered an electric light valid for Chanukah candles would allow it only for an incandescent bulb which can be considered as “burning” to an extent (see Me’orei Eish, 5:2), but not for a LED light. Nevertheless, if there is no other option, one should at least light such a flashlight, but definitely without a berachah.
76 Since, as noted, one is most likely not fulfilling the mitzvah at all when lighting with a flashlight. See Peninei Chanukah p. 13, and Ner Ish Ubeiso, Chapter 6, footnote 12, regarding whether one may put himself into a situation where he will not be able to perform the mitzvah.
77 See Chovas Hadar 1:11, footnote 50.
78 Sha’ar Hatziyun (672:17) adds that we cannot protest against someone who recites a berachah even if no one is awake. R’ Shmuel Wosner (cited in Kovetz Mibeis Levi X, Chanukah 6) maintains that the custom is indeed to make a berachah in such a case. Teshuvos Vehanhagos (III, 215:5) agrees that one may do so if one could not light beforehand.
79 [And even if he will be arriving at his new home when there is still time to light.] Teshuvos Vehanhagos III, 215:11.
80 See Shulchan Aruch 672:2 with Mishnah Berurah note 11.
81 Shalmei Todah p. 181, citing Chazon Ish; Ner Ish Ubeiso 2:21, p. 233.
82 See Ner Ish Ubeiso ibid., p. 235.
83 Shevus Yitzchak VIII, 16:2:3 footnote 26 (p. 200). Even if the Rosh Yeshivah, or some other staff member, lives in the Yeshivah building and lights there, he is not necessarily considered the students’ “host” since the food that the students eat, as well as the rooms where they sleep, do not belong to him, but to the institution (ibid.).
84 That is, either all the other students contribute toward the cost of the oil, or are granted a share in the oil through a valid halachic kinyan. Also, if the Yeshivah provides oil that will be lit by one student, all of the students should own a share in it (once again, either by paying toward it, or through a different halachic kinyan). [The fact that the students have paid tuition may render it as though they already have a share in whatever the Yeshivah provides for them, in which case they would automatically be considered as having a share in oil provided by the Yeshivah. However, this is not necessarily so. First of all, not all students pay tuition. Moreover, it is generally understood that the students are not “partners” in the school possessions, tuition notwithstanding. Therefore, one should make sure that the oil was acquired with specific intent for all of the students to own a share in the oil.]
85 Beiur Halachah 677:1 ד"ה עמו is uncertain about this point (though Mishnah Berurah 263:30 seems to rule leniently regarding Shabbos candles).
86 Shevus Yitzchak VIII, 2:4:2.
87 Rav Pe’alim, Orach Chaim II:50; R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Mo’adim, p. 231); Ner Tzion, Kislev 5:22; R’ Mordechai Eliyahu (Hilchot Chagim, 58:108); R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Chanukah, 14:12). [Cf. Peninei Chanukah, p. 116; Teshuvos Vehanhagos IV:169.]
88 Rema 677:1 with Mishnah Berurah note 12.
89 R’ Aharon Kotler (Hilchos Chanukah [Eider] 4:12); Chazon Ish (Ma’aseh Ish IV, p. 132); R’ Yisrael Yaakov Fisher (Kuntreis Neiros Chanukah, p. 1); Chovas Hadar (1, footnote 59).
90 Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim IV, 70:3; R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Chanukah, 14:8); Minchas Yitzchak VII:48; R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Peninei Chanukah p. 97 ); Moadim Uzemanim VI:88.