Shabbat Candles When Eating Out

As a general rule, one (usually the lady of the house) should light the Shabbat candles where one eats the Friday evening Shabbat meal. This is because the light of the candles are meant to be enjoyed while eating the Shabbat meal.[1] The candles are also intended to ensure that there is light in the home so that the members of the household do not accidentally stumble or bump into anyone or anything.[2] Indeed, one must ensure that there is light in every room of the house that one intends to use on Friday night.[3] One must be sure to benefit from the Shabbat candles after nightfall. Any benefit that one derives from the candles before this time is generally not included in the mitzva.

There are, however, situations when the Shabbat candles may be lit in other locations. There are also instances when it suffices to make use of the candles outside the context of the Shabbat meal. For example, where should one light the Shabbat candles when the family will be eating their Shabbat dinner away from home? If one lights the Shabbat candles at home, and then eats the Shabbat evening meal somewhere else, the candles are likely to be out before one returns home. As such, one would not have discharged one’s obligation to enjoy the candles after nightfall!

What should one do when eating out on Friday night?

One option is to remain home with the candles until nightfall, approximately twenty minutes after sunset (in Israel), and to benefit from their light at that time, such as by reading or playing a game by their light.[4] One can then leave one’s home and proceed to the place where one will be eating the Shabbat meal. The safety and suitability of leaving home while candles are still burning, however, is certainly questionable.

According to some authorities, one can fulfill the mitzva of Shabbat candles with the electric lighting in one's home. Indeed, there is a commendable custom to first turn off the electric lights in one's home and to then turn them back on before lighting the Shabbat candles each week. In this way, the electric lights are considered to be a component of the Shabbat candles, as they were turned on in honor of Shabbat.[5] When one lights the Shabbat candles one should have in mind to include the electric lights, as well. In this way, even if the actual Shabbat candles are no longer burning upon one's return home, one will be able to benefit from the electric lights that were turned on in honor of Shabbat and discharge the mitzvah of Shabbat “candles” in this way.[6] In a variation of this approach, one can turn off the electric lights in one's home and then turn them back on in honor of Shabbat and then light the "official" Shabbat candles at the place where one is eating.[7] Indeed, this latter approach seems to be the most popular and the one that is most widely used.

One who is eating the Shabbat meal away from home but expects to return home while the candles are still burning should light the candles at home as normal. One can then read a book or do another similar activity by their light upon returning home. A woman who wishes to drive somewhere after she lights the Shabbat candles is required to make a mental stipulation that she does not intend to accept Shabbat until she reaches her destination. Such stipulations, however, or otherwise delaying the acceptance of Shabbat should only be done in situations of great necessity.[8] One who leaves home before the time known as plag hamincha has no choice but to light the candles where one is eating since Shabbat candles may not be lit before this time. Contemporary authorities acknowledge that nowadays it is the electric lights that provide the primary illumination in the home and not the Shabbat candles. This is further grounds to rely on the electric lights to discharge the mitzva when necessary.[9]  

Those who make “Early Shabbat” during the summer should ensure that there is enough oil or that their Shabbat candles are long enough to remain lit until after nightfall in order to be able to benefit from the candles at the preferred time. Nevertheless, one will have discharged the mitzva as long as the candles were burning during the Shabbat meal.[10]

[1] Mishna Berura 263:2-5, 45.

[2] Mishna Berura 263:1; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 263:1,2.

[3] Mishna Berura 263:2.

[4] Mishna Berura 263:41; Be'er Moshe 5:64.

[5] See Teshuvot V’hanhagot 2:156, 157; Be'er Moshe 6:64.

[6] Mishne Halachot 5:41; Be'er Moshe 5:64.

[7] Rivevot Ephraim 1:183.

[8] See Mishna Berura 263:44; Shemirat Shabbat K'hilchata  43 footnote 136.

[9] Achiezer 4:66; Igrot Moshe 5:20:3; Rivevot Ephraim 4:66; Shemirat Shabbat K'hilchata 43 note 171.

[10] Mishna Berura 263:30,40,41; Sefer Chassidim 269.