Forgetting to Light Shabbat Candles Part 2 by Avi Levinson



Last week, we began to present a Teshuvah written by Rav Asher Bush (Shoel BeShlomo 16) about a woman who forgot to light Shabbat candles but had electric lights already on.  Rav Bush ruled that she need not be concerned for the custom (Rama O.C. 263:1) that a woman who forgets to light candles must light an extra candle every subsequent week, because she fulfilled the Mitzvah with the electric lights she kindled after Pelag HaMinchah (one and one quarter Halachic hours before nightfall) for the sake of illuminating the house for Shabbat.  This week, we will conclude our presentation of Rav Bush’s Teshuvah and discuss the rulings of other Poskim in this regard.

Questioning Rav Bush

There seems to be an obvious difficulty with Rav Bush’s contention.  If we assume, as Rav Bush does, that a woman can indeed fulfilled the Mitzvah of Neirot Shabbat by turning on electric lights even without intention to fulfill the Mitzvah, how is it that in general women light wax candles with a Berachah after having turned on electric lights for Shabbat after Pelag HaMinchah?  If the Mitzvah already has been fulfilled, how can the Berachah be made; does this not violate the principle, “Kol HaMitzvot Kulan Mevareich Aleihen Oveir LeAsiyatan,” “All Berachot on Mitzvot must be made prior to performing the Mitzvah” (Sukkah 39a)?  The Berachah would seem to be in vain.  Furthermore, the Rama (O.C. 263:10) records the Minhag that the women who light Neirot Shabbat accept Shabbat at the time of the lighting.  Therefore, if the Mitzvah can be fulfilled via electric lights even without intent, it should be forbidden for women to do Melachah (work) after turning on any electric lights on Friday afternoon after Pelag HaMinchah, for they accept Shabbat by fulfilling the Mitzvah!  Ergo, it seems that women have implicit intention not to fulfill the Mitzvah of Neirot Shabbat with anything other than the wax candles lit right before Shabbat.

Rav Bush deftly deflects these challenges, cogently arguing that all lights lit for the sake of illuminating the house are considered a fulfillment of the Mitzvah of Neirot Shabbat.  Any extra light simply adds to the Mitzvah.  Therefore, even after the electric lights have been lit, it is still permissible to recite the Berachah on additional lights or candles.  Indeed, Halacha considers the wax candles placed on the table to be the Ikkar (primary) fulfillment of the Mitzvah (Rama O.C. 263:10), and a woman surely may make the Berachah over these candles (see Tosafot Sukkah 39a s.v. Oveir for a similar suggestion regarding the Mitzvah of Arba Minim).  As proof for this assertion, Rav Bush cites the Rama’s ruling (O.C. 263:8; see, however, the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling ad. loc.) that two women may light candles in the same place and may each recite a Berachah.  Even though the area already is illuminated by the first woman’s candles, the second may recite a Berachah, because she adds more light to the area and thereby adds to the Mitzvah.  The fact that the Minhag is to make the Berachah on the wax candles does not mean that the Mitzvah has not been performed prior to lighting them (Berachot Einan Me’akvot).

Parenthetically, we should note that Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (cited in Nefesh HaRav p. 156) and Rav Moshe Feinstein (cited in The Radiance of Shabbos p. 20 note 3) object to making a Berachah on wax candles if the room already is well-lit by electric lights.  They contend that the Rama’s permission to recite a Berachah upon extra lights does not apply if the amount of light added is insignificant.  Other Poskim, though, do not make this distinction, and many families follow this lenient approach.  One should ask his Rav for a ruling regarding this matter.

On the other hand, Rav Bush proves that the Berachah does determine the time of Kabbalat Shabbat.  Ashkenazic women do not make the Berachah until after lighting the candles (despite the principle of Oveir LeAsiyatan), because if they did make the Berachah beforehand, lighting the candles would be forbidden, since the Berachah determines the time of Kabbalat Shabbat.  Similarly, the general practice is not to drop the match immediately upon lighting the candles, showing conclusively that Kabbalat Shabbat is not concomitant with lighting the candles, but rather with some other action, namely, the Berachah. Thus, the fact that women usually perform Melachah after turning on electric lights for Shabbat does not prove that their intentions are not to fulfill the Mitzvah with the electricity.

The Pri Megadim’s Stringency

Even assuming the woman fulfilled her Mitzvah of Hadlakat Neirot with the electric lights, there still may be reason to impose the Kenas (penalty) upon her.  The Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 263:3) extends the Rama’s Kenas to a case in which a woman forgot to light as many candles as she normally does.  For instance, if a woman ordinarily lights three candles, and one week she lit only two, the Pri Megadim requires her to light four candles every succeeding week as a Kenas for being negligent regarding her custom to light many candles. According to this line of reasoning, the woman in Rav Bush’s case seemingly would have to light an extra candle every week, for she did not light as many candles as normal, having forgotten the wax ones.

The Poskim debate whether or not the Pri Megadim’s ruling should be followed. The Machatzit HaShekel (263:3) and Kaf HaChaim (263:11) both accept the Pri Megadim’s stringency.  The Beiur Halacha (263:1 s.v. SheShachechah), however, rejects the Pri Megadim’s extension of the Rama’s ruling. He invokes the principle, “Chiddush Hu VeHavu DeLo Losif Alah,” “It is a novel ruling; we do not extend it” (see Sanhedrin 27a).  In other words, the entire idea of lighting an extra candle is merely a stringent custom we have adopted and technically is not required.  Therefore, though we follow the established Minhag, there is no reason to extend its application to cases other than the one in which it explicitly was adopted.  I would add that the Pri Megadim’s stringency is not mentioned by the Chayei Adam (Hilchot Shabbat 5:13), Aruch HaShulchan (O.C. 263:11), or Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (75:14; see, though, Shearim HaMetzuyanim BaHalacha ad. loc. 13) in their discussions of the Rama’s Kenas, implying that it was not widely accepted. 

Rav David Tzvi Hoffman (Melameid LeHoil 46), in a case similar to Rav Bush’s, writes that he is unsure about this matter.  As such, he writes, it is preferable to follow the Pri Megadim’s stringency.  He argues that a woman who forgot completely to light Neirot Shabbat with a Berachah (as in this case) cannot be excused from the Kenas, and he suggests that at the very least, she should follow the ruling of the Eliyah Rabbah (cited in the Chayei Adam ibid.) to use larger candles every subsequent week.  The Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchatah (43:5 note 30) cites Rav Hoffman’s ruling without comment.

This issue continues to be debated amongst contemporary Poskim. Rav Bush claims that the custom is to follow the Beiur Halacha on this point.  For instance, those who stay at hotels over Shabbat usually are unable to light as many candles as they habitually do, yet they do not light an additional candle or larger candles every week subsequent to their stay. Thus, RavBush feels that the Pri Megadim’s stringency is not accepted. Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen (The Radiance of Shabbos p. 22) also cites the Beiur Halacha’s view as normative.

Other Poskim, though, maintain that the custom indeed follows the Pri Megadim (see Piskei Teshuvot 263:2). Rav Cohen (ibid. note 16) quotes Rav Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg as accepting the Pri Megadim’s view, and Rav Avraham David Horowitz (Kinyan Torah 6:9) similarly asserts that the custom is to follow the Pri Megadim.  Perhaps these Poskim would argue that one cannot adduce any proof from those who stay at hotels, because they are considered BeOnes (coerced), under which circumstances the Kenas does not apply (Mishnah Berurah 263:7).  Hotel regulations do not allow for candles to be lit in rooms, so the fact that a woman did not light as many candles as usual when she stayed at a hotel is not a form of negligence and therefore does not warrant a Kenas.  Rav Dovid Ribiat (Migdal David, Hakdamah LeMelechet Shabbat note 716), in support of the stringent position, writes, “It appears that the custom is to be stringent [to follow Rav Hoffman’s ruling].”

Perhaps this debate centers on which aspect of Neirot Shabbat warrants the imposition of the Kenas.  The Pri Megadim and those who follow his ruling feel that the aspect of Shelom Bayit is operative in determining the Kenas.  As such, if a woman undertakes to light extra candles, she in effect has accepted upon herself that there will be extra light in the house as an enhancement of Shelom Bayit.  Lighting fewer candles thus is a reduction of Shelom Bayit and warrants a Kenas.  On the other hand, those who reject the Pri Megadim maintain that the primary factor in assessing whether to impose the Kenas is the Maaseh Hadlakah.  Therefore, as long as the woman lit some number of candles, albeit fewer than usual, she has performed a Maaseh Hadlakah and does not deserve a Kenas.

Other Rulings

Several contemporary Poskim address cases identical to Rav Bush’s.  Rav Yaakov Yosef (Otzar Dinim LeIshah 9:26 note 42) cites his father, Rav Ovadia Yosef, as ruling, like Rav Bush, that if electric lights were lit in the house, there is no need to impose the Kenas.  Since the house was lit, the main purpose of Neirot Shabbat was fulfilled.  Rav Hershel Schachter, in a Shiur delivered at Yeshiva University’s Midreshet Yom Rishon program, seemed to endorse this position.  Perhaps these Poskim feel that even if we accept the premise of the Pri Megadim that a reduction in Shelom Bayit warrants a Kenas, the electric lights provide so much light that the lack of wax candles is negligible.  (The corollary of this ruling would appear to be that, as noted earlier, one cannot recite a Berachah on wax candles if the electric lights are lit.)

On the other hand, Rav Shmuel Wosner (Sheivet HaLevi 5:33) and Rav Horowitz rule that even if there are electric lights running in the house, the Kenas is applicable.  Rav Wosner does not cite the Pri Megadim as precedent for his position, but rather seems to feel, like Rav Hoffman, that it in inconceivable that a woman who completely forgot to light her usual candles should be spared from the Kenas.  Rav Ribiat acknowledges (ibid. note 725) that there are those who rule leniently, but he appears to prefer the stringent view. 

When I asked Rav Elazar Meir Teitz, he agreed that electric lights are sufficient for Shelom Bayit.  However, when I questioned whether we can assume that any lights lit after Plag HaMinchah were lit for the sake of Shabbat, he replied in the negative.  Thus, according to Rav Teitz, unless the woman had specific intentions to illuminate the house for Shabbat when she lit the electric lights, she would be required to add another candle every week.


Rav Bush’s ruling that because the woman lit the electric lights after Plag HaMinchah there was no need to impose the Kenas mentioned by the Rama seems to be the subject of a major dispute among contemporary Poskim. One should consult his Rav for guidance regarding this issue.

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