Married Women Lighting Their Own Chanuka Candles

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

The basic Mitzvah of Neirot Chanukah is to have one candle per night per household. A higher level [mehadrin] is to light a candle for each person, and an even higher level [mehadrin min hamehadrin] is to have the number of lights increase corresponding to the day of Chanukah [Shabbat 21b].

A woman is obligated in the Mitzvah of Neirot Chanukah. [Shabbat 23a]. Most authorities even hold that she may light on behalf of a man [Magen Avraham 675:4]. The question is whether the Ashkenazic practice of Mehadrin-min-Hamehadrin, where all members of the household light their own Neirot Chanukah, also applies to women.

Rambam writes [Chanukah 4:1] that the number of candles, which depends upon the number of people of the house, is based on the number of both men and women. However, the Eliyah Rabba [671:3] writes that a wife does not light separately from her husband because; a wife forms one unit with her husband, which is referred to as “Ishto K’gufo”. This would imply that daughters should light their own menorah.

The Chatam Sofer [Shabbat 21b] disagrees, and claims, that since the procedure was to light outdoors and it was not considered modest for women to congregate among men from other families, [Kol Kevuda Bat Melech Penima], the practice that everyone lights was not extended to them. The Mishna Berurah [675:9] writes that although women are not required to light separately and are included in the men’s lighting, they may light if they want, even with a beracha. However, he adds, that a wife should not light separately because- Ishto k’gufo. Rav Soloveitchik did not think that this was an appropriate application of Ishto k’gufo, and the Rav felt that married women should indeed, also light their own candles.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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