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.