Lighting Candles on Yom Tov - Part 1

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: Are there any differences between the mitzvah of lighting candles for Shabbos and the mitzvah of lighting them on Yom Tov?

Discussion: There is one major difference which has many ramifications: unlike Shabbos, when it is obviously prohibited to light candles, on Yom Tov it is permitted to do so. Since it is permitted to light a fire in order to cook, it is likewise permitted to light a fire for other reasons, unrelated to cooking (based on the principle of “mitoch”). Therefore, although lighting Shabbos candles before Shabbos is absolutely required, lighting Yom Tov candles before Yom Tov is not absolutely required. In fact, if Yom Tov follows immediately after Shabbos, the candles must be lit on Yom Tov, since they cannot be lit on Shabbos. Similarly, candles may not be lit on the first day of Yom Tov for the second night, so they must be lit on the second night itself.129

Lighting candles for the first day of Yom Tov, when it is the middle of the week, is a matter of debate. In the preface to the work Perishah and Derishah on Yoreh Deah130 it is mentioned that women had a common practice to light Yom Tov candles after their husbands returned from shul. The wife of the author of the Perishah believed this practice to be in error and that, instead, a woman should light Yom Tov candles before the onset of Yom Tov. She offered two reasons for this: First, to properly honor the Yom Tov, the lights should be lit before Yom Tov begins. Second, melachah which could have been done before Yom Tov should not be done on Yom Tov.131 (See below for an additional reason to light before Yom Tov, which applies especially to contemporary times.) Nevertheless, other Acharonim132 defend the original custom, and many women still have the custom to wait until their husbands come home before they light.

Note that although one may light candles on Yom Tov, one may only transfer from a pre-existing flame but not create a new flame by striking a match. If one does not have a flame, he may take one from a neighbor only if the candle will not be transported outdoors where it is vulnerable to the wind.133

Additionally, one may not extinguish the match. Instead, it should be put down and allowed to go out by itself.

Question: Should the berachah over lighting Yom Tov candles be recited before or after lighting them?

Discussion: With regard to Shabbos candles, the common custom is to recite the berachah after one has finished lighting the candles.134 This is because of the opinion135 that one accepts Shabbos upon reciting the berachah, which makes it prohibited to light the candles afterwards. The wife of the author of Perishah136 noted that common practice in her day was for women to do the same thing when lighting Yom Tov candles. However, she believed that this was in error for the following reason: Even if a person accepts Yom Tov by reciting the berachah, it is still permitted to light the candles, as hav’arah is permitted on Yom Tov. Thus, there is no reason not to recite the berachah before lighting, and so we should follow the normative principle that a berachah should be recited prior to the performance of a mitzvah (over la’asiyasan). This is Mishnah Berurah’s ruling as well.137 However, some still have the custom of reciting the berachah after lighting, just as they do for Shabbos. This custom, which also has legitimate sources, assumes that once it has been established to recite the berachah after lighting on Shabbos, we do not differentiate between Yom Tov and Shabbos.138

Note that if, on erev Yom Tov, a woman does recite the berachah before lighting, she should assume that she has accepted Yom Tov, just as that assumption is made when she lights candles before Shabbos.139 She is thus subject to the restrictions that apply to lighting candles on Yom Tov: namely, she may not strike a match or extinguish it. And obviously, she may no longer turn on or off the electric lights.

Question: Should the berachah of Shehecheyanu be recited upon lighting Yom Tov candles?

Discussion: Many women have the custom to recite the berachah of Shehecheyanu when lighting the Yom Tov candles, after reciting the berachah of Lehadlik Ner shel Yom Tov.140 R Ya’akov Emden141 expresses bewilderment at this practice: It would seem that the optimum time to recite this berachah, for men and women alike, is at Kiddush. Indeed, there seems to be no source for the practice of reciting it upon lighting candles. Nevertheless, R’ Yaakov Emden concludes that in locales where this is the custom, it is not necessary to object to this practice because, essentially, one may fulfill the obligation by reciting Shehecheyanu at any time on Yom Tov. Mishnah Berurah142 cites R’ Emden’s ruling.

If a woman is reciting Kiddush for herself, she should not repeat Shehecheyanu during Kiddush if she had already recited this berachah when lighting the Yom Tov candles. However, if she is hearing Kiddush from her husband or someone else who has not yet recited Shehecheyanu, she may answer Amen to the berachah of Shehecheyanu that he recites in Kiddush.143

Note that if a woman does recite the berachah of Shehecheyanu upon lighting candles, she has accepted Yom Tov, and she may not stipulate to the contrary.144 Therefore, all the restrictions mentioned above concerning lighting candles on Yom Tov apply. On the other hand, if she recites the berachah of Lehadlik Ner before lighting (see above) but will not be reciting Shehecheyanu, she may stipulate that she is not yet accepting Yom Tov if there is pressing reason.

129 See foreword to Perisha cited below, as well as Toras Chaim (R’ Ya’akov Chaim Sofer) 263:20, who make this point. Note that Tosafos (Beitzah 22a, ד"ה אין) writes that common practice in his day was, indeed, to light on the first day of Yom Tov for the second. Indeed, Eliyah Rabbah (488:7) rules that it is preferable to light on the first day of Yom Tov for the second day, and cites Shelah who rules accordingly. Yisrael Vehazmanim (I, page 564) and others note that, especially today, it is preferable to light at night, as artificial lights make Tosafos’s rationale seemingly irrelevant. See there for a lengthy discussion of the issue; and see Yom Tov Kehilchaso 26:8.

130 The Perishah and Derishah is a twin commentary on all four sections of the Tur. Its author, R’ Yehoshua Falk Katz (1555-1614), also wrote the Sema commentary on Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat.

131 This is the ruling of Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav) 260:3 as well. See also Pri Yitzchak I:6.

132 Toras Chaim ad loc. See also Yom Tov Kehilchaso 26, footnote 15 who finds a precedent in the Rishonim for this practice.

133 See Beiur Halachah 514:3.‎

134 See Rema to 263:5.

135 See Rema ibid., 10 and Mishnah Berurah note 27 ad loc.

136 Preface, ibid.

137 Ibid.

138 This is the ruling of Magen Avraham 263:12, Shulchan Aruch Harav 263:8 and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 75:4.

139 Beiur Halacha 527:1, ד"ה ספק חשכה, deliberates whether or not a woman is assumed to accept Yom Tov upon herself when lighting the Yom Tov candles before Yom Tov, as is the case with the Shabbos candles. He concludes that one should preferably act stringently.

140 See Halichos Shlomo II:9, footnote 149, and Chut Shani, Rosh Hashanah, page 412 for explanation of why this is not considered an interruption between the berachah of Lehadlik Ner shel Yom Tov and the lighting of the candles.

141 Sheilas Ya’avetz I:107.

142 263, note 23. The inference is that, ideally, one should not do so. However, Chut Shani ibid. writes that from Mishnah Berurah 600, note 4 it can be inferred that this is indeed the accepted practice.

143 Igros Moshe IV:21:9 and 101; Halichos Shlomo II:9:22; Minchas Shlomo II:58:2; Chut Shani, Shabbos IV, page 110. Cf. He’aros to Pesachim 54a, where it is reported that R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ruled that she should not answer Amen unless the berachah is also referring to some special mitzvah that is performed that night (e.g., on the first night of Pesach).

144 Pri Yitzchak II:9; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah 43:23.