CHANUKA AWAY FROM HOME
Rabbi Yosef Zimbal
Chanuka is a particularly family-oriented festival. We make family get-togethers and celebrations and give our children (and grandchildren) Chanuka gelt and gifts. It is an opportunity to teach the younger generation about the miracle that came about through another family, the Chashmanaim. However, occasionally, circumstances prevent families from being all together at this time. Often it is assumed that if a husband is in a different continent and time zone to his family, he cannot be included in his wife's hadlaka, lighting, and should therefore recite the brachos and light for himself. But as we shall see, this is not a simple matter. Indeed, there are grounds for saying that he should not light for himself because he is always included in the family's hadlaka, even against his will, and that his own brachos would therefore be recited in vain.
Let us examine whether or not a person who is away from home on Chanuka should light his own menora. There are three issues that need to be addressed here:
1. Reasons for lighting neiros Chanuka away from home.
2. When the husband is away from home.
3. When the husband is in a later time zone than his home.
1. Reasons for lighting neiros Chanuka away from home
a) Mehadrin min hamehadrin - Beautifying the mitzva
The basic mitzva of neiros Chanuka, Chanuka candles, is to kindle one ner, candle, for one's entire household. However the universal minhag, custom, is to follow the mehadrin min hamehadrin - those who seek to beautify the mitzvos to the highest degree. The Ashkenazic interpretation of mehadrin min hamehadrin is that every family member lights their own menora, kindling an additional candle each night 1. Since the minhag of mehadrin min hamehadrin applies equally whether one is at home or not 2, one should go beyond the minimum requirement and light when they are away from home. This applies to male family members. Women are not included in this minhag 3.
b) Hallel v'hoda'ah - Thanks and praise to Hashem
There is another reason why a person away from home can justify lighting their own menora. The mitzva of neiros Chanuka is a two-fold obligation. One aspect of the mitzva is on the household - lighting in every home to publicise the miracle. Family members who are away from home at the time of lighting fulfil this part of their obligation even though they are not physically present. However, there is a second requirement on each individual of hallel v'hoda'ah, to thank and praise Hashem for the miracle. It was due to this personal obligation that Chazal, the Sages, instituted the blessings She'asa nissim and Shehechiyanu 4. Therefore even regarding the basic requirement, it should be incumbent upon any family member not present for the household hadlaka, to light a menora to fulfil their individual obligation.
2. When the husband is away from home
It is generally considered mehadrin min hamehadrin for family members to light their own menora after the head of the house has lit and fulfilled the mitzva (see 1a above). There is, however an exception to this rule. When a husband is away and the wife lights at home for the household, the husband is also included in her mitzva. He cannot rely on mehadrin min hamehadrin to light with the brachos. This is based on the principal of ishto k'gufo - a husband and wife are considered to be one entity for this mitzva. In effect it is as if he has personally lit 5. But if he stipulates that he does not wish to fulfil the mitzva through his wife's agency, one might think that ishto k'gufo no longer applies and that he could light for himself. However the Poskim debate whether or not a husband can release himself from his wife's lighting in this manner. Therefore even if he would specify that he does not wish to fulfil the mitzva with her, he still cannot light with the brachos 6.
What then of his personal obligation of hallel v'hoda'ah? Perhaps he should light Chanuka candles in order to recite the brachos and express his gratitude and praise to Hashem. However, there is a difference of opinion amongst the Rishonim as to whether the husband's individual obligation of hallel v'hoda'ah is automatically fulfilled along with his household obligation when his family lights 7. Lighting with the brachos could entail a possibility of a bracha l'vatala, reciting a bracha in vain.
The halacha is that he is included in his family's lighting and there is no personal obligation in this case 8.
One, who wants to be stringent and follow all opinions, can do one of the following:
a) Light before one's wife will kindle the candles at home. He can then recite the brachos as well (This applies whether he is in the same time zone as his wife or an earlier time zone).9
b) If he wants to light later than his wife will, he should ask someone to include him with their brachos. After he hears the brachos he can light his own menora 10.
c) Lastly, he can be mishtateif b'pruta - become a partner in his host's lighting by paying him part of the cost of the oil or candles and then listen to his host's brachos.11
3. When the husband is in a later time zone than his home
Our discussion until now has assumed that the husband and wife are in the same time zone. Does the halacha change if the husband is staying in a later time zone than his home (e.g., if one lives in Australia and travels to Eretz Yisrael or the United States)? Some Poskim say that in this case the husband does not fulfil his mitzva when his wife lights at home. This is because when his wife lights in Australia, it is still not Chanuka where he is staying (or on the second night in Australia, it is still the first day of Chanuka in Eretz Yisrael or the United States). According to this opinion he would be obligated to light and recite the brachos.12
However there are poskim who maintain that he still fulfils the mitzva with his wife's lighting at home even though it is not time for him to light Chanuka candles yet. They understand that the main obligation is on the household like mezuza and it is irrelevant where the individual is 13.
Since there is a doubt as to whether he has fulfilled the mitzva, he must light candles where he is staying, though he cannot recite the brachos. Ideally he should hear the brachos from someone else, or he should be mishtateif b'pruta with someone else and hear their brachos 14.
1. Orach Chaim (O.C.) 671:2 with Rema. The common practice today is to light mehadrin min hamehadrin. See Rema 675:3 and Mishna Berura (M.B.) 677:1.
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