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Shabbat Parashat Korach 5774

Ask the Rabbi: Relighting Shabbat Candles that Went Out

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: Soon after my wife lit Shabbat candles and made a beracha, they went out for no obvious reason. Did she fulfill the mitzva? Should she have relit them (with or without a beracha)?


Answer: When the above occurs when a Sephardi woman or an Ashkenazi man lights, for whom Shabbat prohibitions do not begin after lighting me’ikar hadin (see Yalkut Yosef, OC 263:7 and Mishna Berura 263:42), he or she should certainly relight the candles. This is because (as opposed to the mitzva of Chanuka candles), the mitzva’s action of lighting is not a replacement to the heart of the mitzva, the benefit from them on Shabbat. However, what does an Ashkenazi woman, who generally accepts Shabbat through the lighting (Rama, Orach Chayim 263:100), do.? Could a failed lighting preclude her from relighting?

There is a basis to say that candles that go out quickly are as if they were never lit. While the K’tzot Hashulchan (Badei Hashulchan 74:(14), cited by several poskim) makes this claim, it may not apply to our case. First, he is talking about a case where the flame never took hold of most of the wick (your description is unclear on this point). Second, he refers to a case where the beracha was not yet recited. Then, since the acceptance of Shabbat comes from the lighting, this does not occur until the lighting is completely over, including all planned candles and when it is clear they are properly lit. In fact, there is significant debate (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:(179)) as to whether it is the lighting or the subsequent beracha that ushers in Shabbat. Rav S.Z. Auerbach leans toward the “beracha approach,” and Mishneh Halachot (VIII:31) who agrees, therefore permits blowing out the match before making the beracha (as opposed to letting it go out itself – see Shulchan Aruch, OC 263:10). Thus, since your wife already made the beracha, which includes an indication that she is finished lighting, she should not have relit the candles (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:37).

However, there is a (usually) simple solution – to ask someone else to relight the candles, as one who accepted Shabbat significantly before sunset can ask those who have not done so to do melacha for him (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 17). In general, members of the household are not bound by the wife/mother’s acceptance of Shabbat (Rama, OC 263:10). They may (re)light as many as is desired to get to the normal number. If no Jews are available, one may ask a non-Jew to light, and this can be done up until the time of tzeit hakochavim (at least 13 minutes after sunset) and even when there is sufficient electric lighting (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata ibid.; see Mishna Berura 263:21). In the case of a non-Jew’s lighting at twilight, it is not clear whether more than one candle should be lit.

In the various cases where candles are relit, one does not make another beracha (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:37; see Chovat Hadar, p. 87; Yalkut Yosef ibid.). (The explanation is beyond our scope.)

If all the candles went out and you did not have any relit, your wife apparently did not fulfill the mitzva. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (263, KA 3) goes as far as to say that the benefit (which you were missing) one receives is the mitzva, and the lighting is just a preparatory act. Even if the lighting is the mitzva, it still appears that the benefit is a necessary condition for the mitzva’s completion (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 263:9). In a case that none of the solutions were feasible, it is not one’s fault, and she is credited for at least doing the right Friday actions (lighting and refraining from desecrating Shabbat). (We, of course, would not suspect your wife of gross negligence in the lighting.) Thus, the “penalty” of having to add an additional candle for the rest of one’s life does not apply (Mishna Berura 263:7). The Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (43:(35)) is unsure on this point when no candles remained lit and one did not avail herself of the above solutions, but if this occurs because she did not know the halacha, we do not believe the penalty applies.

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