It is not uncommon during Chanukah for synagogues to hold Friday night dinners during Chanukah, as it can be a good way to bring people together, and especially so for young families due to the early start time of Shabbat. However, doing so raises the question about where and when Chanukah candles should be lit by those eating their at the shul.
As is well known, Chanukah candles are lit at the home after sunset and contain enough oil or wax so they remain lit for at least 30 minutes after nightfall. If someone is not able to light at this time, say for example they do not come home from work until late, the general rule is that they can still light whenever they return home. (See Mishneh Berurah, Shaar HaTziyun 672:17) Eating out on Friday night, though, presents a problem, for one obviously cannot light after returning home from Shabbat dinner at the shul. Some make the assumption that those who attend the dinner should light Chanukah at the shul because that is where they will be eating, but this point is heavily debated.
The Tur (Orech Chaim 677) cites a teshuvah of his father, the Rosh, that one who eats with another but has a home of their own where they sleep must light at their home. The reason is because people regularly walk by their home and if they don’t see Chanukah candles lit, they will assume the person who lives there didn’t light at all. The Rashba in a teshuvah (1:542) describes a similar case, however, he appears to rule in the opposite way.
|גם מי שאוכל על שלחן בעל הבית אפילו שוכב בבית בפני עצמו אינו צריך להדליק. אבל מכל מקום צריך להשתתף או שיקנה לו בעל הבית חלק בשמן ופתילות. ולא דמי לאכסנאי שמדליק בתוך ביתו דהתם כבר הדליקו עליו. אבל זה צריך הוא להדליק כאכסנאי שאין לו בית במקום אחר דצריך לאשתתופי בפריטי /בפרוטה/.|
|One who eats at the table of another, even if they sleep at a different house, does not need to light [where they sleep]. But nevertheless, he needs to join in [with the owner of the home he eats at] or the owner will grant him a portion of the oil and the wicks. This case is not similar to the guest [who eats away from home and] whose family lights in his home [even though he is not there], for in that case they have lit for him [and therefore he has fulfilled the mitzvah]. But [in our case] he needs to light as a guest who does not have a home in another place and therefore must join [in with the lighting] with a perutah.|
The Rashba appears to say that one who eats in a different location from where one sleeps can, in fact, join in with the lighting of their hosts, as would be the case when one sleeps at the home of another during Chanukah. The Rashba’s position is cited by Rema (Orech Chaim 677:1), who also alludes to the concern of the Rosh, and adds that because Ashkenazi custom is for candles to be lit inside the home, people outside can’t see them, and therefore one need not be concerned to light in one’s home to alleviate the problem of marit ayin.
The Taz, however, disagrees and argues that the Rashba’s ruling and the Rema’s application of it is much more limited than how it appears at first glance.
ונראה דגם רמ”א לא מיירי אלא במי שיש לו תמיד חדר מיוחד לאכילה וחדר אחר לשכיבה אך העיקר הוא חדר האכילה וכנדון דהרשב”א שזכרתי משא”כ במי שיש לו דירה בעיר והולך פעם א’ חוץ לביתו וסועד אצל חבירו פשיטא שלא יניח ביתו וידליק בבית שהוא אוכל שם פ”א אצל חבירו אלא צריך לילך לביתו ולהדליק שם…ואפי’ למ”ש בסמוך דאכסנאי רשאי להדליק גם במקום שהוא שם היינו שעכשיו תהיה גם שכיבתו שם משא”כ בזה שיאכל כאן שעה או שתים וישוב למקומו… דזה הוה כאלו עומד בשעת הדלק’ על רחוב העיר… הגם שראיתי קצת בני אדם בשע’ שאוכלי’ בסעוד’ אצל אדם אחר שולחים אחר נרותיהם ודולקים שם וסומכים על הג”ה זו וטעות הוא
It appears that Rema’s ruling only applies in a case where one has a designated room for eating and a different room designated for sleeping. [In these circumstances] The room where one eats is primary as discussed by the Rashba in the teshuvah that was mentioned. His case is not of one who has an apartment in the city and goes one time outside of his home and eats with his friend. [In this example,] It is obvious that he should not set aside his home and light in his friend’s home that he only eats at one time. Rather, he must go to his home and light there… and even what is written that a guest may light in the place that they are eating only applies if they are sleeping there, which is not the case if he will only eat there for an hour or two and return home… To do so would be like standing in the street while seeing people light in their homes…Also, I have seen some people who when they eat with another, they light there and rely on the comment of Rema and this is an error.
According to the Taz’s reading, the Rashba’s position would only apply in a case where one eats and sleeps in different locations each night of Chanukah, such as would be the case for yeshivah or university students who typically light Chanukah candles in their dining hall and not in the dorms. (That being said, some poskim rule that it is better for yeshivah students to light in their dorms if possible because the dining hall is a communal space and not their personal space. See Iggerot Moshe Yoreh Deah 3:14) The Taz’s ruling is affirmed by his father in-law, the Bach (677:3), Magen Avraham (677:7), Mishneh Berurah (677:12), and Aruch HaSchulchan (677:3).
Even if one wanted to argue for a more expansive reading of the Rashba’s teshuvah and the Rema’s application of it, it is not clear that it would apply in a situation where one is eating at a synagogue. Though there is some disagreement among the poskim, the obligation to light Chanukah candles rests primarily on the home, or at the very least, in a defined space where one will be spending the night. As a result, Rav Moshe Feinstein rules (Iggerot Moshe Yoreh Deah 3:14) that if one is traveling the entire night and does not go to sleep, they would not be obligated to light Chanukah candles. Based on all this, we can draw the conclusion that the only one who might be able to fulfill their personal obligation by lighting candles in a synagogue is one who is spending the night there.
How then should one proceed with lighting candles on Friday night? Because it is extremely dangerous to leave an unattended fire burning in one’s house, this leaves one with the following options:
One final point: At a communal meal on Friday night, there remains an additional question about where Shabbat candles should be lit. Unlike Chanukah candles, which are primarily connected to one’s home, Shabbat candles are connected more so to where one eats (See Mishnah Berura 263:39), and therefore they can be lit in shul, ideally in the same room where the dinner will be eaten.
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