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Yom Tov Candles Origins, Laws and Customs

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Parsha Halacha – Parshat Mishpatim

Shabbat Mevarchim Chodesh Adar/ Parshat Shekalim

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In the Torah portion of Mishpatim we find several verses about observing Yom Tov, as it says,[1] “You shall celebrate three pilgrimage festivals for Me each year… You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread… at the appointed time of the month of springtime (Pesach) … And the festival of the harvest, the first fruits of your labors, which you will sow in the field (Shavuot), and the festival of the ingathering when you gather in the products of your labors from the field (Sukkot).”
The Torah connects the joy of these holidays with the agricultural milestones of those times of the year – spring, harvest, and ingathering. In truth, however, these holidays have messages and meanings far beyond the celebrations of those agricultural seasons, for we know that Pesach celebrates the Exodus, Shavuot celebrates the Giving of the Torah, and Sukkot the Clouds of Glory in the desert. Yet these celebrations remain connected to those agricultural events. Pesach, the holiday of the redemption, represents the Jew who has just begun his service of G-d, similar to planted grain which has not yet ripened. Shavuot, when we received the Torah but had not yet begun to observe it, is likened to grain that has been harvested but not yet enjoyed. Sukkot is a holiday that celebrates the full spiritual experience of integrating all of Torah and mitzvot into one’s life and thus corresponds to the time when a farmer gathers his produce in from the field and is the time of greatest joy.[2]
This article will focus on the mitzvah of lighting Yom Tov candles.

The Mitzvah of Lighting Yom Tov Candles

Just as the sages established the mitzvah of lighting Shabbat candles in order to honor the Shabbat and to increase peace in the home, so, too, the sages established that it is a mitzvah to light candles in honor of Yom Tov.[3]

Yemenite Custom

The Yemenite custom is to not make a blessing on lighting Yom Tov candles. This is based on the fact that the Rambam does not mention lighting Yom Tov candles at all.[4] (The Yemenite community usually follows the Rambam’s halachic rulings.) This is also the opinion of several Rishonim.[5] Their reasoning is that unlike Shabbat when the candles must be kindled before Shabbat, on Yom Tov one may light a candle (from an existing flame) on YomtovI or move a candle as needed. Thus the candles can be seen as a utilitarian need rather than a mitzvah.
The custom of the wider Jewish community, however, is to recite a bracha, based on the opinions mentioned in footnote 4. Their reason is that since it is a mitzvah to enjoy Yom Tov and part of that joy is to eat a bright festive meal, the sages enacted that we light candles and eat that meal by their light.

Oneg Yom Tov for Women

Rabb Akiva Eiger is of the opinion[6] that the mitzvah of oneg Yom Tov (getting pleasure on Yom Tov) is a positive time-bound mitzvah and, as such, is not incumbent upon women. Certainly, the custom is that women fulfill this mitzvah by eating the Yom Tov meals though this is a voluntary rather than mandatory mitzvah. (He points out that some say that simcha, joy, is a personal mitzvah for women on Yom Tov, but it is a different mitzvah than oneg, pleasure.)
According to Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s opinion that oneg Yom Tov is not mandatory for women, Rabbi Shmuel Wosner questions[7] why the Shulchan Aruch rules (O.C. 263:5) that women should make a blessing when lighting Yom Tov candles.[8] He explains that, aside from the mitzvah of oneg Yom Tov, the lighting of the candles also ensures Shalom Bayit, peace in the home, by having light so that people not trip and fall. Certainly, the mitzvah of ShalomBayit applies equally to men and women.

Made the Shabbat Bracha

The correct blessing to say when lighting Yom Tov candles is “Baruch… Asher Kidishanu… Lehadlik Ner Shel Yom Tov (Blessed is… Who has commanded us… to light the Yom Tov candles.)” One who mistakenly said the Shabbat blessing (Lehadlik Ner Shel Shabbat) must repeat the blessing unless he corrected himself within several seconds.[9] This is similar to one who mistakenly says Mekadesh HaShabbat (as should be said on Shabbat) in the Yom Tov Amidah instead of Mekadesh Yisrael VeHaZemanim (the correct wording for Yom Tov), in which case he must repeat the entire blessing unless he corrected himself immediately.[10]

When Shabbat and Yom Tov Coincide

When Shabbat and Yom Tov coincide, the blessing on the candles should include both days, i.e., Baruch… Asher Kidshanu… Lehadlik Ner Shel Shabbat VeShel Yom Tov. Shabbat is placed before Yom Tov as it occurs more frequently.
Even those who usually say Lehadlik Ner shel Shabbat Kodesh when lighting on Shabbat (this is the Chabad custom) leave out the word “Kodesh” when it is both Shabbat and Yom Tov.[11]

Made the Incorrect Blessing on Shabbat and Yom Tov

On a Shabbat that coincides with Yom Tov, if one forgot and said either the Shabbat or Yom Tov blessing when lighting candles instead of the combination-blessing, one should correct himself immediately. If he didn’t realize until later, it is unclear as to whether or not another blessing should be repeated. Some recommend that, in this case, her husband should light an additional candle and recite the correct blessing when doing so.[12]

Using the Yom Tov Candles

One may light a fire from one’s Yom Tov candles and use that fire for cooking or for other needs of Yom Tov as it is intended that Yom Tov candles be used for all of one’s Yom Tov needs.[13]

The Same but Different from Shabbat Candles

Nearly all of the laws that apply to Shabbat candles apply to the Yom Tov candles. There are some differences, however. Here as some of them:
·        When to Say the Blessing
Some say that on Yom Tov one should say the blessing before lighting the candles. The reason for the difference is that regarding Shabbat some say one accepts the Shabbat when saying the blessing and that one may not light the candles afterwards. Whereas regarding Yom Tov, even after accepting Yom Tov one may light candles (from an existing flame). As such, one should say the blessing first (since the blessings on mitzvot are usually said before their performance) and light the candles afterwards from an existing flame.[14]Others say that, in order to avoid confusion, the blessing is said after the lighting on Yom Tov just as is done on Shabbat. This is the Chabad custom.[15]
·        If One Forgot
A woman who forgot to light Shabbat candles one week is supposed to light one extra candle from that point on.[16] This candle will remind her to be more careful in the future. This is true even if the regular electric lights were left on in the house, since they were not specifically lit in honor of Shabbat.[17] If the electric lights were specifically turned on in honor of Shabbat (or if they went on during Shabbat as a result of a Shabbat time-clock) she need not add a candle since it is considered that she has fulfilled her obligation of having Shabbat candles.[18]
Some say[19] that this law does not apply to Yom Tov, i.e., even if a woman forgot and did not light Yom Tov candles one time, she need not light an extra candle from then on. The reason for the difference is that on Yom Tov it is rare for a woman to forget to light candles since she may also light during Yom Tov (as opposed to Shabbat when she may not). The sages did not enact the above reminder for the unusual case of a woman who completely forgot to light on Yom Tov.
·        Condition to Not Accept Shabbat or Yom Tov
The Ashkenazi custom is that women accept Shabbat when they light candles. In a situation of need, one may make a condition that one is not accepting Shabbat at that time and one may then continue to perform labor until Shabbat begins. (One should always add a few minutes of the weekday to Shabbat.) A woman whose custom is to say the Shehechiyanu blessing when lighting the Yom Tov candles,[20] however, may not make such a condition. The reason for this is that reciting that blessing is considered to be a full acceptance of Yom Tov.[21] As such, if it is necessary for a woman to light the candles early but not accept Yom Tov until Yom Tov begins (besides adding a few minutes to the Yom Tov from the weekday), she should omit the Shehechiyanu and instead hear it during the Kiddush.
May we soon merit to the Lighting of the Menorah in the Bait HaMikdash!
[1] Exodus, 23:14-16                      
[2] Likutei Sichot 29 pages 232-233
[3] Levush, O.C. 514:11 and Shulchan Aruch HaRav 514:24. The Hagahot Maimaniyot, Hilchot Shabbat, 5:1 writes that “It is customary to light candles on Yom Tov.” He cites the Jerusalem Talmud (Brachot chapter 9) as a source for this. [This teaching is not found in our texts of the Jerusalem Talmud.] See also Mordechai on Shabbat chapter 2, no, 273.
[4] But see Laws of Yom Tov 6:16 where the Rambam says, “One should honor and have pleasure on Yom Tov just as on Shabbat. And we have already explained the proper honor and pleasure of Shabbat.” It can be said that this includes lighting candles.
[5] The Orchot Chaim by Rabbi Aharon HaKohen of Lunil (Din Hadlakat HaNer Be’erev Shabbat, 1) mentions an opinion that no blessing is recited when lighting the Yom Tov candles since there is no Shalom Bayit need for them as one can take a candle with him when he walks.
The Avudraham (Perek BaMeh Madlikin writes, “But for lighting the candles on Yom Tov it is not customary to recite a Bracha as it is not a mitzvah and obligation like on Shabbat in which case it is included in the mitzvah of getting pleasure on Shabbat. But on Yom Tov we find the mitzvah of Simcha (joy), not that of Oneg (pleasure). The author of the Mishmeret HaMoadot writes that one should say the blessing.”
Finally, the Sefer HaManhig (by Rabbi Natan HaYarchi) writes (in Hilchot Shabbat, paragraph Vekatav Rav Acha) in the name of Rav Achai Gaon that one does not recite a bracha when lighting candles for Yom Tov.
These sources are quoted in the Sefer Kavod Hashabbat by Rabbi Yosef David Veingarten (Jerusalem 2000) page 199.
[6] Responsa 1
In light of his ruling, Rabbi Akiva Eiger writes that a woman who forgot to recite Ya’aleh VaYovo in the Grace after Meals on Yom Tov need not repeat the Grace after Meals. The only exception to this is the nights of the Seder as women are obligated to eat Matzah as much as men.
[7] Shevet HaLevi 5:33
[8] The Rama rules (O.C. 589:6), based on Tosfot (Rosh HaShana 33a D.H. Ha Rabi Yehudah) that women may recite a blessing when performing a mitzvah in which they are not obligated. This is the Ashkenazi custom. The Bait Yosef however, (O.C. ibid) follows the view of the Rambam (Hilchot Tzitzit 3:9) that women may not recite blessings when performing such mitzvot. This is the Sefardic custom.
[9] Rav Y.S Elyashiv quoted in the Dirshu Shulchan Aruch 514 note 43
[10] Shulchan Aruch HaRav 487:1. The Alter Rebbe adds there that, although Yom Tov is sometimes called Shabbat, the blessing is invalid since it is a departure from the text of the blessing that was established by our sages.
[11] Sha’arei Halacha UMinhag vol. 1 pg 251. The reason for omitting this word is that it may not be part of the actual text of the bracha. As such, on Shabbat when it is at the end of the bracha it is said. But on Yom Tov when it might be considered a hefsek (interruption) in the middle of the bracha, it is omitted.
[12] See Reponsa Hitorerut Teshuvah 1:112 quoted in the Dirshu ibid
[13] Shmirat Shabbat KeHilchato 44 note 35
[14] See sources quoted in Mishnah Berurah 253:26. The Mishnah Beruah seems to prefer this view.
[15] Shulchan Aruch HaRav 253:8
[16] Rama O.C. 263:1 and Shulchan Aruch HaRav 263:1
[17] Shevet HaLevi (5:33). But see Yalkut Yosef, Shabbat 253 note 6 who indicates that in this case she need not add a candle.
[18] Rav Y.S. Elyashiv, quoted in Dirshu 263 note 18
[19] Rav Y.S. Elyashiv , quoted in ibid 514 note 42
[20] This is the common custom. But see Mishnah Berurah 253:23 that one who does not have a custom need not recite Shehechiyanu when lighting candles.
[21] This is based on the Talmud (Eiruvin 40b) which states that the Shehechiyanublessing on Yom Kippur cannot be recited over a cup of wine even before Yom Kippur began. Because as soon as one says that blessing it becomes forbidden for them to drink. This clearly indicates that saying this blessing is considered like the full acceptance of Yom Tov.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevroach and a Chodesh Tov!

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