Shabbat Parashat Vayeishev | 5765
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Question: My wife and I will be spending part of Chanuka in a guesthouse as part of a group. The group will be the only ones on the premises. Part of my family will be at home. Do I light Chanuka candles where I am and, if so, where?
Answer: The gemara (Shabbat 23a)says that a guest is obligated to light Chanuka candles at his host’s home but that it is sufficient to give money for some of the oil that is used to be included in their lighting. (Some say that more oil must be added in order for the contribution to be significant (Mishna Berura 677:3)). The gemara adds that Rav Zeira, who used to pay toward the oil, stopped doing so once he got married (but was sometimes away from home by himself), because his wife would light for him in his home (the understanding of most poskim).
Thus, it would seem that as long as there are bar/bat mitzva age children at home lighting, you are exempt from lighting outside the home. The only provision one should immediately add is that the Taz (677:1) assumes that a wife is automatically assumed to light with her husband in mind, while others in the household should have their parent(s) in mind specifically. However, there are additional factors that complicate matters, and these factors are different for Ashkenazim and Sephardim.The Maharil, one of the pillars of Ashkenazic p’sak and, especially, minhag, says that nowadays a person who is staying at inns of different sorts should light his own candles. This is because two things have changed. One is that the place of lighting with the related pirsumei nisa (publicizing of the miracle) has been moved indoors. Secondly, now we customarily have all the members of a household light. Therefore, if one of the guests does not light, others may think that he has chosen not to take part in the mitzva and may not realize that he has a household where they are lighting for him. The Terumat Hadeshen (101) anyway rules that since there is a concept of mehadrin (adding on more Chanuka lighting than is necessary), a guest who is interested in lighting despite being exempt by his family can do so with a beracha. We also prefer a person to light his own candle rather than add on to the host’s oil (Mishna Berura ibid.: 3). This is especially pertinent in a case like yours where you are part of a group where everybody is a guest of a commercial institution. This is different than joining an existing household, which more naturally absorbs others (see Chovat Hadar, Chanuka 2:9). As far as where to light, the Rama says that the place where people eat is the proper place to light. One could argue whether it is preferable to also light in or outside one’s room [beyond our scope], but given that most guesthouses are understandably reluctant to have unnecessary fire hazards, the lighting in the joint dining hall should suffice.For Sephardim, there are two major differences. Firstly, the Shulchan Aruch (see Beit Yosef, 677) does not accept the Terumat Hadeshen’s permission to make a beracha when he is able to be exempt by his household. Secondly, the Shulchan Aruch says that where the guests have separate sleeping quarters with a separate entrance than that of the ba’al habayit, they should light there, as otherwise it might be suspected that the occupier of the dwelling is not lighting. It is unclear whether that situation requires lighting with or without a beracha (when there is a lighting in their own home) and the Kaf Hachayim (667:9) suggests hearing the beracha from someone who is obligated. Where there is a problem getting permission to light in the room, it may be reasonable for Sephardim to light without their own beracha in the joint dining area and try to ensure that someone lights in front of the building or wing they sleep, having them in mind. Another direction of leniency is that in a campus that is occupied by one group whose members light uniformly, the issue of suspecting one another is weaker than usual.
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