By Yosef Brecher
If a number of women from different households are all eating together in one room, can they all light their Shabbos candles together in the same room? What about on the very same candelabra?
The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 263:8) writes that if there are women from multiple households eating together in one room, some hold that each woman can light her own candles in the room, while others argue and hold only one woman can light he Shabbos candles in the room. The Rama (ibid.) writes that our minhag follows the first opinion that every woman in the room can light her own candles. The Shlah (Shabbos, Ner Mitzvah sif katan 24) writes that the Rama, who paskens that multiple woman can light in the same room, is referring specifically to a case in which each woman is lighting a separate candelabra. Each individual candelabra, however, can only be used by one woman. It would seem that the Shlah feels a woman can only light Shabbos candles if her lighting will bring additional light to the room in which she is lighting. When a woman lights candles on a candelabra that is already holding lit candles, her additional candles cause no perceivable increase in light and therefore do not constitute a fulfillment of hadlokas nairos.
The Elya Raba (cited in M.B. 263:8 sif katan 18) cites the opinion of the Shlah and disagrees with it. He writes that when the Rama wrote that multiple woman can light candles in one room, he was including a situation in which those women were lighting their candles on the very same candelabra. Even though the second woman’s candles do not provide a noticeable contribution to the illumination of the room, they nevertheless can be used to fulfill the mitzvah of hadlokas nairos. The Elya Raba explains that according in the opinion of the Shlah (multiple women cannot light the same candelabra since there is no increase in light) the same logic should apply to two women lighting separate candelabras that are positioned next to each other. Since that area of the room is already illuminated by the first woman’s candelabra, no more women should be allowed to light their candles in that vicinity. Since the Rama does not make this distinction it seems clear that, in his opinion, multiple women can light candles in the same room in any circumstance – even when they are using the same candelabra. The Elya Raba also brings proof to his opinion from the ruling of the Maharil (siman 53). The Maharil writes that on Yom Tov, candles can be lit in Shul during the day. The Elya Raba explains that although the Shul is completely illuminated by daylight, nevertheless, light produced by the additional candles – albeit not perceivable – is considered a benefit for the room.
In regard to the practical halacha, it would seem that both the Shlah and Elya Raba would agree that multiple woman can light their candles in the same room if they are using separate candelabras. If two women are sharing the same candelabra, however, it is less clear. Do we follow the opinion of the Shlah (two women cannot share one candelabra) or that of the Elya Raba (two women can share the same candelabra). Some poskim (Chayay Adam, klal 5 siman 12; Mekor Chaim) rule in accordance with the Elya Raba, while others (Mishna Berura O.C. 263 sif katan 37) write that only a woman who cannot afford to purchase a second candelabra should follow the more lenient opinion of the Elya Raba. Women who can afford it, though, should be careful to light candles on their own individual candelabra.
In truth, the above discussion relates to an issue that will, b’ezras hashem, be the topic of next week’s column – how can we fulfill hadlokas nairos in a room that is already fully illuminated by electric lights? The answer to that question may bring to light additional justifications for multiple women lighting candles using the same candelabra.
The purpose of this column is not to render halachic decisions, but rather to provide readers with a helpful overview of basic hilchos Shabbos. All specific halachic inquiries should be asked to a local halachic authority. General questions about the content being discussed, however, are welcome and can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2013 Yosef Brecher