- Question: [Thursday, 27th Menachem Av, 5781]
We were invited as guests for the Friday night meal to a family that is a bit distanced from our house and we plan on walking there right after candle lighting time and will probably get home very late. My question is regarding where it is better for us to light Shabbos candles, and if it’s better to light at home as usual, or if we should just light by our host and arrive to our host early enough before Shabbos in order to light there.
Halachically, it is technically permissible to light in either area that one chooses, so long as the halachic conditions are fulfilled [as we will explain], although some Rabbanim say it is preferable to light at home while others say it is preferable to light by one’s host. Practically, my suggestion in such cases [for Ashkenazim], both due to halachic and safety concerns, is that it is better for you to light the Shabbos candles by your host where you will be eating the Friday night meal and not at home, and to light specifically on or near their dining table, and therefore you should arrive early enough to your host in order to light there. Before leaving your house, make sure to leave the lights on in the hallway and other areas, and arrange the Shabbos clock in a way that you still have light when you come back home. In the event that you cannot light by your host before Shabbos for whatever reason [or if you are Sephardi], then you should light at home in a fire safe area [i.e. if the candle falls G-d forbid, it will not fall on anything flammable], and make sure to either remain home until dark in order to benefit from the light, or arrive home early enough to still see the candles while they are lit, and to benefit from their light and preferably to eat something while near them. It is also preferable in this situation to turn off the lights in the room and then turn them back on prior to lighting.
The two aspects of Oneg Shabbos and Shalom Bayis: There are two halachic purposes achieved in lighting Shabbos candles. The first is to bring peace onto the home [i.e. Shalom Bayis], so that nobody stumbles in the dark, and so they have enough light to see where they are going, and the second is for the sake of Oneg Shabbos, so that one eats his Friday night meal near candlelight. While the former aspect is relevant to all areas of the home that one will be around on Friday night, the second aspect is relevant specifically to the dining table where the Friday night meal will take place. Now, amongst the two purposes mentioned above for which the sages instituted lighting candles, the aspect of Oneg Shabbos which is fulfilled through the lighting that takes place near the dining room table, is the main purpose. All the more so does this apply in today’s times when we already have electric light throughout the home, in which case the first purpose of lighting candles is no longer so relevant, and therefore the main reason that remains for the Mitzvah is the aspect of Oneg Shabbos. Therefore, even back then, and even more so today, the Shabbos candles are to be lit specifically near or on the dining room table and not in any other room [that already contains electric light].
The first reason a Friday night guest should prefer to light by host: Based on the above, when a Friday night meal guest is faced with the question of whether to light candles at home as usual, or to arrive early to his host and light there, there is an advantage for her to light specifically by the host in order to benefit from the main purpose of the candle lighting, which is to eat the Friday night meal by the candles. Now although it ends up that there will be more than one set of Shabbos candles lit in the home of the host and no Shabbos candles lit in one’s own home, nonetheless, for Ashkenazim who allow more than one person in the home to light Shabbos candles with a blessing, and are accustomed to follow this opinion even if one is a guest in the home, this is the preferred option to light by the meal table than to light at home especially being that one already has Shalom Bayis in his home due to the electric light. [Now, although some Rabbanim write to the contrary, that since the host is already lighting in their house and therefore the lighting of a guest in that home is subject to dispute, that it is better to simply light at home, in my opinion this is not accurate as wherever one chooses to light would be subject to some debate, and regarding the debate subject to lighting by the host the established custom of Ashkenazim is to be lenient. This especially applies according to the Chabad custom for all female family members to even initially light with a blessing in the same area, and that the same would apply by a guest. However, according to Sephardim indeed there is indeed a string argument to make that they should prefer to light at home, in the way to be explained, being that the Michaber rules that two Baalei Batim cannot light in the same area, and all the more so does this apply to a guest.]
The second reason a Friday night guest should prefer to light by host: Another reason for preferring lighting by one’s host versus in one’s home is because it is an absolute halachic requirement to benefit from the Shabbos candles that one has lit, otherwise it is considered a blessing in vain and the mitzvah has not been fulfilled. Now, if one plans on leaving his home before dark, such as the go to shul and then go directly to one’s host to eat the meal, then they must make sure to arrive home with enough time to still benefit from the candles while they are still lit, and being that it is not always practical to arrive home by this time therefore it is better to simply just like by the host. The third reason a Friday night guest should prefer to light by host: Another reason for preferring to light by the host is simply due to safety concerns, as candles should never be left unattended. Choosing to light at home before one leaves: Nonetheless, despite the above reasons, in the event that it is not possible to light by the host then one may light at home with a blessing, in a fire safe area, making sure to benefit from the lights, which can be accomplished in one of the two ways we mentioned above, [to either remain home until dark in order to benefit from the light, or arrive home early enough to still see the candles while they are lit, and to benefit from their light and preferably to eat something while near them]. Of the two options, the better option is to arrive home while the candles are still lit and to eat something near it in order to also fulfill Oneg Shabbos with the candlelight.
Sources: See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:154; Maznei Tzedek 3:15; Hadlakas Neiros of Dubav p. 15; Piskeiy Teshuvos 263:23 and 26 and 28 and 30; See regarding the two purpose of lighting Shabbos candles: Admur 263:1; Michaber 263:2; Shabbos 23b and 25b; See regarding that the main purpose of the lighting is for Oneg Shabbos, to eat by candlelight: Admur 263:1 and Kuntrus Achron 263:1 and 263:14; Rama 263:10; Or Zarua Erev Shabbos 11; M”B 263:39; See regarding lighting candles with a blessing in an area that one will not be eating and the law today in times of electricity: Admur 263:1 and 9-10 and 14-15; Michaber 263:6; Tashbeitz 6; Ketzos Hashulchan 74 footnote 22; Beir Moshe 5:113; Yeshuos Moshe 3:24; Piskeiy Teshuvos 263:30; See regarding more than one person lighting candles in a home: Admur 263:10 [regarding Baal Habayis] and 15 and Kuntrus Achron 5 [regarding even a guest, that according to second opinion there it is permitted for him to light and that so is the custom]; Michaber and Rama 263:8; M”A 263:15; Tehila Ledavid 263:7; Minchas Shabbos 75:29; Ketzos Hashulchan 74 footnote 22 and 24; Kuntrus Neiros Shabbos Kodesh [Levin] 1 footnote 34; Piskeiy Teshvuvos 263 footnote 242, see there regarding Sephardim; See regarding the obligation to benefit from the candle light: Admur 263:13; Michaber 263:9;Agudah Shabbos 2:45; Piskeiy Teshuvos 263:28