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The Single Man Who Forgot to Light Shabbos Candles

The Single Man Who Forgot to Light Shabbos Candles 1

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

It happened to a tzaddik of a guy that this author has known for years.  It is also a well known halacha in the  Ramah (SA OC 263:1 citing the Maharil). A woman who was not careful in Shabbos licht and forgot to light one Erev Shabbos must add on an additional candle (or oil) as a knas – a fine. The Mishna Brurah explains that the fine was placed so that she will be careful in Kavod Shabbos.


It is interesting to note that the obligation of lighting applies to all adult members of the household – men and women (See SA OC 263:2).  The reasons for the Mitzvah are threefold:  There is the Mitzvah of Onaig Shabbos – enjoying Shabbos (Rambam Hilchos Shabbos 5:1).  There is the Mitzvah of Kavod Shabbos – honoring Shabbos (Rambam Hilchos Shabbos 30:5).  And there is the Mitzvah of enhancing Shalom Bayis (See Shabbos 23b).  The obligation is a chiyuv gavrah – an obligation on the person and not a chiyuv cheftzah on obligation on the house (see Biur Halacha 263:6 “Bachurim” who concludes such while explaining an apparent contradiction). [The Shalom Bayis obligation may, however, be interpreted as an obligation on the house.]


Does this knas also apply to a single bochur who forgot to light?  There are two instances where this may apply.  It may apply to a single bochur that is living on his own.  It could also apply to a single bochur in a Yeshiva dormitory who is made a shliach – a messenger, on behalf of the entire Yeshiva.


There are two reasons that are cited for why the Mitzvah is primarily on the wife.  The first, cited in the Shulchan Aruch itself (263:3), is that she is in the house more than the husband.

The second reason is that that women in particular have the specific and important task of rectification to perform in the world.  Mankind, the lamp of the world was partially extinguished in the first aveirah.  The woman was designated with the special opportunity of rectifying this – and because of that she was honored with the Mitzvah of hadlakas neiros.


It seems that there are three views in the Poskim regarding this issue, but the overwhelming consensus is that he does not have to light anything extra.  Let’s examine the three opinions:

  • The Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasa (Chapter 43 note #35) is unsure as to whether the man must also light an extra candle.
  • The Shaivet HaKhasi (Volume V #266) writes that the bochur should light an extra candle. He writes that it is only as long as he is single, but after he gets married – his wife does not have to add another candle.  Rav Yoseph Lieberman the Rav of Sadigurah in his Mishnas Yoseph Vol. VI #79 also writes that the single bochur has to light again.
  • Rav Elyashiv zt”l ruled (Ashrei HaIsh Vol. II p. 57) in such a case that the bochur does not have to light.

In the latter case of the shliach for all the dormitory boys – everyone would agree that they are completely off the hook – because they relied on the shliach and there is a concept (See Eiruvin 31b) that there is a Chazakah that a messenger performs his task.  So even opinion #2 only holds the shliach at fault but exempts the rest of the dormitory boys.


The Pri Magadim in his commentary to the Mogain Avrohom (AA 263:7) indicates that the knas was only placed on the woman and not the man. This could very well have been Rav Elyashiv’s proof.   Also, let us keep in mind that this knas was promulgated during the time when there were no electric lights.  And although this is not enough of a factor to exempt a woman who forgot to light – certainly in combination with the fact that the Mitzvah belongs primarily to the woman we do not place a fine on the man.   Rav Feinhander in Avnei Yashpeh (Vol. I #55) cites this reasoning in the name of Rav Elyashiv zt”l as well.

Can we infer from the wording of the Ramah that the fine is only placed on a woman who forgot and not a man?  The Mishnas Yoseph writes that we cannot make such an inference since we can say that the Ramah was speaking in what is common occurrence.  Others suggest that the inference can certainly be made from the Ramah’s wording because there are plenty of times when men were away from home or are widowed or single.


Where should a single person who is eating out actually light – in his or her dining room or in his or her bedroom?  Generally speaking if it is not dangerous – it should be where he will be using the lights.  If he will not be in his dining room – then he should be lighting in his bedroom.  If this is dangerous or otherwise not feasible – then he should make sure that he uses the lights in his dining room and light there.

The Single Man Who Forgot to Light Shabbos Candles 2

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One Comment

  1. It concerns me that if a woman is forgetful, and has to light multiples
    1. The costs could be significant
    2. There could be an embarrassment factor – imagine seeing a blazing forest fire of dozens or even a hundred candles (is there no limit?)
    3. It seems this could reduce her chances of getting married. Since this involves a biblical commandment as well as being a major thing, wouldn’t this be blazing problem basically stating, “Warning! Do Not Marry!”
    4. How young are we talking about? 12 year old girl forgets and she’s got to light a forest every week for the rest of her life?
    5. Loshon Hara. Why not have a scarlet letter, “C” (Candles)?
    6. Psychologically, this is supposed to go on for the next 80 years? What other Jewish crime carries that kind of punishment? Maybe adultery or murder? No. Nothing as publicly open as the blazing forest.
    7. Why not let her light the holy number of candles, and then for the shame count, have her turn on a light? Even then, I’m concerned about the psychological impact.
    8. What if she just doesn’t do it? Now we’ve got her lighting candles for the rest of her life and she feels like a cheat. That’s not nice, either.
    9. Couldn’t we offer her something less severe, like tzadaka? Or a fast? Or a beating? (just kidding, but to be honest, I bet some would actually prefer to get it over with.)

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