MISC section -
Q I was brought up as a girl to light my own Neirot Chanuka (Chanuka candles = NC) and I continued to do so as a married woman. Recently I was told that when there are men in the house, only they should light. Should my daughters and I stop lighting?
A The basic mitzva of NC is to have one light per night per household. A higher level (mehadrin=Mh) is to light a candle for each person, and an even higher level (mehadrin min hamehadrin = MMH) is to have the number of lights increase corresponding to the day of Chanuka (Shabbat 21b). Rishonim disagree whether MMH erases the Mh, and the household lights only the number that corresponds to that day (Tosafot) or whether we do both, as we light per person times the number of the day (Rambam). Ashkenazim follow the Rambam's approach (approximately) whereas Sefardim follow Tosafot's approach (Shulchan Aruch & Rama, Orach Chayim 671:2). So for Sefardim, it is traditional that the husband/father alone lights the candles.
Not only is a woman obligated to be involved in NC (Shabbat 23a), including by someone lighting on her behalf, but there is a clear consensus that a woman can light on behalf of a man (Magen Avraham 675:4; see Yechave Daat III, 51). The question is whether the Ashkenazic practice of MMH, that all members of the household light their own NC, applies to women as well?
Rambam (Chanuka 4:1) writes that the number that corresponds to the people of the house includes both men and women. This makes perfect sense, as women are obligated like men. (We should note that Rambam implies that even in MMH, only one person lights, just that the number is adjusted by the number of people, but Ashkenazim have each person light.) As time went on, though, it appears that different minhagim, which differ from the expected, surfaced. The Maharshal (Shut 85, 400 years ago) and Eliyah Rabba (671:3, 300 years ago) say that a wife does not light separately from her husband, as the latter explains, because a wife is part of her husband (ishto k'gufo), not a separate unit within the household. This idea, a reflection of marital unity, has halachic implications in various areas of halacha. This implies that daughters should and probably did light.
Later poskim noted that in practice no girls light, and all sorts of explanations (often a sign that all are tenuous) were raised to explain the phenomenon. The most famous one is the Chatam Sofer's (175 years ago) who says that since the practice was to light outside and since it was not considered modest for women to congregate among men from other families, the practice that everyone lights was not extended to them. The Mishna Berura (675:9) brings the Olat Shmuel that females are not required to light separately and are subsumed in the men's lighting, but if they want, they can light with a beracha. R. Sh. Z. Orbach (Minchat ShlomoII, 58.3) explains his opinion as follows. If one naturally fulfills his requirement with someone else and for no good reason intends not to be exempt but to do it himself, there may be an issue of an unnecessary beracha. However, since here there is a reason (even though not an obligation) for a woman to want to do MMH by lighting her own NC, it is not considered an unnecessary beracha. These poskim do not say that a girl should not light; they explain how there could be a minhag that many do not.
There are many females, including the wife and daughters of Rav Soloveitchik (Nefesh Harav, pg. 226), who have the minhag to light. Such a girl can be proud that she performs the mitzva as MMH (without belittling those with a different minhag). Regarding a wife, there are classical sources (see also Terumat Hadeshen 101)and a clear explanation as to why not to light separately. Thus, she might consider it sufficient to light the household's Shabbat candles and have her husband represent their unit on Chanuka. If she does light, she may avoid possible doubts by using her husband's beracha to cover her lighting as well. There are other halachically plausible compromise possibilities, but we refer to the main practices we know of.
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R' Yosef asked her what had happened, and she told him: "I had just received my monthly allocation, a gold Napoleon coin, when it slipped out of my hands and I lost it. I have searched and cannot find it."
R' Yosef took a gold Napoleon from his pocket and told the woman: "I found what you lost. Here, take it."
The woman was overcome with joy and thanked R' Yosef over and over again. She then ran off to prepare for Shabbos.
Someone asked R' Yosef:
"Rabbi, why did you tell her that you had found her coin, rather
than telling her the truth that you were given her your own coin as
The Netivot Sholom points out a contradiction in Midrash Rabba which quotes Tehilim, "Praise- worthy is the man who has made Hashem his trust, and turned not to the arrogant." The Midrash understands the first part of the verse as referring to Yosef, the paradigm of bitachon in Hashem. Yet, the second part also refers to Yosef who requested human aid and was therefore imprisoned for two additional years. The Slonimer explains that the contradiction is itself the answer. Only a Yosef who had exemplary trust in Hashem could be faulted for seeking human help. He quotes another Midrash connecting the word "miketz" in our parsha to what is stated in Iyov: "Ketz sam lachoshekh…" "He has set a limit to the darkness…" The darkness of Yosef's imprisonment had a "ketz," a predestined end. There is a set time schedule for all of world history. But had Yosef placed his total trust in Hashem, he could have changed his predetermined fate.
The Slonimer connects this to the Chashmonaim whose trust in Hashem resulted in the Chanuka victory. On the other hand, Israel began to fall into the hands of Edom (Rome) when the Chashmonaim began to put their faith in them. The miracles of Chanuka were encased in natural wrappings, but were, in essence, miraculous. Bitachon brings those miracles into history and allows us to recognize the miraculous wrapped in the natural.
Modern Israeli history is replete with miracles, some "natural," others inexplicably miraculous. We have seen military victories, the amazing transformation from desolation into a bustling, modern and prosperous country, and Israel's establishment as the world's Torah center. We have seen the miracle of Jewish aliya from behind the Iron Curtain and anticipate the aliya from behind the "Golden Curtain."
Yet we are still
tempted to put our trust in human beings both in and outside Eretz
Yisrael and to question the miraculous nature of our history. We
must remember that everything comes from Hashem, the only source of
bitachon that we can be sure of.
For instance, the Sefat Emet takes a look at the Bracha we utter on seeing the flame of the Chanuka candle. We thank G-d for the miracles that he performed for us, "in the days of old - in our time." Clearly there is a link between the past and the present manifested in this blessing.
For the Sefat Emet the candle lights recall a miracle beyond nature and time. Since the oil in the rededicated Bet Mikdash lasted for 8 days rather than one, and since the rabbinical command to light the Chanuka Menora was given for all generations, it follows that in our times there is also a supernatural element to the lit lamps.
Citing the verse in
Mishlei (6:23) "For a candle is a mitzva, and the Torah is light,"
the Sefat Emet indicates that, today, the actual Mitzva of candle
lighting is the contemporary vessel that transmits the Divine Light
from above. So, in lighting the Menora we do more than just recall
past times: We recreate the miracle, we rekindle the hidden vessels
within us, and by invoking the past we take one step further towards
its glorious restoration.