- Question: [Thursday, 11th Shevat 5782]
In the winter, when I come back from Shul on Friday night my hands are freezing. May I warm them by placing them near the Shabbos candles?
Yes. There is no halachic issue to warm dry hands near the Shabbos candles on Shabbos. However, wet or moist hands may not be warmed next to the candles. Rather, one is to first dry them well using a towel, and only then warm them near the fire.
Explanation: Unlike the Chanukah candles, there is no prohibition against benefiting from Shabbos candles, and on the contrary its entire purpose is for benefit, to benefit from its light so one does not trip on items in the room and to eat next to it, and one who does not benefit from it is considered to have said a blessing in vain. Now, although it is forbidden to make use of a mitzvah candle for a mundane purpose, including Shabbos candles, due to it being belittling of the mitzvah, and thus one may not light a cigarette from Shabbos candles [even before sunset], nonetheless, this belittlement is only when one makes use of the actual flame, as opposed to simply hovering the hands above the flame. Now, although there are certain restrictions in regard to reading next to lit candles on Shabbos, this is due to worry that one may come to tilt to the lamp, which is un-applicable worry when it comes to simply warming one’s hands near the flame. Likewise, from the fact that the Poskim discuss and debate whether it is permitted to warm wet hands near a flame on Shabbos due to the issue of warming the water, proves that if the hands are dry there is no issue at all. Practically, while we are stringent regarding wet hands, there is no reason to be stringent regarding dry hands.
Sources: See regarding benefiting from the Shabbos candles: Admur 263:1; 11; 13; Michaber 154:14 regarding Shul candles; 674:1 regarding Chanukah candles and 674:2 extends the ruling also to Shabbos candles; Mishneh Berurah 263:4; Piskeiy Teshuvos 263:7; see regarding the restrictions of making use of candles on Shabbos: Admur 275:1; Michaber 275; Mishneh Shabbos 11a see regarding warming one’s wet hands near a flame: Admur 326:4; Michaber 326:4-5; Shabbos 40b; Tur; Rosh 3:9; Mordechai 305; M”A 326:6; M”B 326:17