Sunday, December 28, 2008

Do Unmarried Girls Light the Menora?

I saw an informative and entertaining handout in Shul this week. It began thusly:
In "rove mekomos," the minhag is that unmarried girls living at home don't light the menorah. Why is this? Why wouldn't the hiddur of Ner lechal echad ve'achad apply to them? The piece, which is scholarly and thorough, goes through various opinions and explanations that have been stated over time.

The 'entertaining' part, for me, was the implicit assertion that because of their anecdotal presumption that in "rove mekomos" unmarried girls living at home do not light, that this is the predominant minhag.  This is a blithe dismissal of, or an (intentional?) obliviousness to, those homes in which unmarried girls DO light the menorah.

Such as, the Feinstein homes, pursuant to Reb Moshe's instruction, and the Soloveichik (Reb Aharon) homes, pursuant to Reb Aharon's instructions.

I personally attest to Reb Moshe's psak.  I spoke to him about it, I spoke to my father in law about it, and my wife remembers lighting when she was a child, as do all the Feinstein granddaughters.  Reb Aharon's psak is from his son, Reb Moshe, and his talmidim, Rabbis Shlomo Cherrick and Gary Schreiber.

For the purposes of the dvar torah, it would have been sufficient to state that in many homes, unmarried girls do not light, and this is a common hanhaga.  Rove is irrelevant.  Rove people shukle during Shmoneh Esrei, but Reb Moshe and Rav Rudderman and Reb Yaakov did not.

Does anyone out there have personal knowledge of what the minhag is in homes of other gedolim?

Anyway, if you're interested in the mar'ei makom cited in the handout:
Chasam Sofer, Chidushim, Shabbas 21-- young women don't light because they used to light at the doors, and kol kevuda etc.
If this sounds extreme, think about why you looked forward to going to Tashlich when you were younger. I can certainly see how lighting the menora at the doorways could become, as they say, a Matzav.
Eshel Avraham (Butchatch)-- something ahl pi sod. As far as I can tell, it's based on "vehadarta pe'nei zakein, and from there they see that "since women don't have beards, they're not in the parsha of Hiddur Mitzvah." Not my department. If you're interested, look it up yourself.
Nit'ei Gavriel, Chanuka 7:2-- since the tachlis of women is to get married and then they will be pattur on the basis of Ner Ish Ubeiso, there is no reason for young girls to accept a hiddur they will ultimately not follow when they reach "tachlis yetzirasan." This is strange for two reasons: because they will be doing the hiddur when they get married, by way of participating in their husband's hadlaka, and because I find it hard to believe that "tachlis yetzirasan" is to become bateil to a man.
Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in Halichos Shlomo-- basically the same without the "tachlis yetzirasan" line; that since they will marry and not light, "lo chaishinan" that they should light until then. This, I understand. Why should they get into the habit of lighting only to stop when they get married?

Chaim B., the Mechaber of the Torah Website Divrei Chaim, gave me another source: Rav Sternbuch in his Moadim Uzmanim, Vol. 2, Siman 133.
Rav Sternbuch says that the takana of hadlakas haner has two aspects: a commemoration of the miraculous victory and of the renewal of the Beis Hamikdash, and a re-enactment of the Hadlakas Hamenora, as the Ramban in Be'ha'aloscha and the Raavad in Hilchos Tefilla say. Women's chiyuv is only on the first, because "af hein hayu...." But the aspect of re-enacting the Hadlakas Hamenora of the Beis Hamikdash does not apply to women, because they are not chayavos in Machatzis Hashekel. Therefore, although they are chayavos to light, and can even be motzi men, that's only because they are chayavos on the global obligation. But as for the aspect of Menora re-enactment, only a man can do that. Therefore, it is better for women to be yotzei along with their husbands or their fathers, so that they can participate through the man's hadlaka in the greater mitzvah, which they would not have if they lit by themselves.

Rav Sternbuch is basically re-purposing Reb Akiva Eiger's point in OC 106 from the Besamim Rosh and the Teshuvos 6 about women being pattur from Musaf, since it comes from the Machatzis Hashekel. However, there are big differences. One difference is that Chazal befeirush said that women are chayavos in Ner Chanuka, and to say that their chiyuv is different is surprising, as implied in the Turei Even in Megilla; another difference is that the din of hadlaka ksheira be'zar, as far as I know, applies just fine to women also, just like Shechita k'sheira bezar applies to women; and finally, that why on Earth would it make a difference if they're being yotzei with a man, if the concept of Menora has no shaichus to them.


  1. Reb Moseh and Reb Soloveichik do not establish a Roiv,they should but they dont, This is probally one of the many things that they did that Roiv does not do (an intresting Post topic by the way the Halachic things you saw by Reb Moshe That people dont do)In fact I heard this Year, that Reb Moshe once or more had his wife light for him at home on time when he was going to be late from Yeshiva(can you cofirm or deny that?)

  2. >>>In fact I heard this Year, that Reb Moshe once or more had his wife light for him at home on time when he was going to be late from Yeshiva

    Just heard the same from a reliable source regarding R' Ahron Soloveitchik.

    When I was coming home late from work I would always tells my wife to light b'zman and not wait. I was very happy this year to find this in the Halichos Shlomo - I don't understand why one would not do this.

    >>>since the tachlis of women is to get married and then they will be pattur on the basis of Ner Ish Ubeiso

    This assumes that married women need not light even though the minhag is for everyone in the house to light because of mehadrin min hamehadrin. That minhag itself needs justification.

  3. I just asked Reb Reuven if his father ever had his mother light if he were coming home late. He does not believe the story is true: he said that Reb Moshe always ensured that he would be home for the zman hadlaka. This does not necessarily disprove the story; it's possible that it happened one time and Reb Reuven is unaware of it. I will continue to inquire.

    As for "why don't women light, even if they are married?" The handout did address that question. He brought that the Eliahu Rabba in 671 says that married women don't light because Ishto KeGufo, and that he brings that he found the same answer in the Teshuvos Maharshal. He also brings from the Mishneh Berura in 671 that cites Teshuvos Olas Shmuel siman 105 as saying that married women don't light because they are "rak tefeilos le'ba'aleihen." The Olas Shmuel actually has a whole lomdus: he says that the gzeira for men was "ein lochem chelek be'elokei yisrael," and the ikar gzeira for women was "tiba'el le'tafsar techilla," and so for the women, although the victory was a yeshua for them as well (ahf hein hayu...), they were never mekabel mehadrin min hamehadrin.

    I should have put that into the post. But I am puzzled by the idea that "ein lochem chelek" was only a gezeira on the men.

  4. To Anonymous 12:29 7:40 am:
    Well, that depends on what you call a roiv. I suspect that the 'minhag' of young girls to not light stems mostly from not thinking carefully about it, and might be more habit than minhag, like standing up for Chassan and Kallah on the way to the Chupa.

    Anyway, I have an interesting discussion of what constitutes a rov where one side has the bigger talmidei chachamim here:

  5. The sevara of ishto k'gufo in this context is very difficult to understand -- we never find that a wife is exempt from performing a mitzvah for that reason.

    In the journal HaPardes from 15 years ago there is an article on women lighting by R' Moshe Bleich. Among his mekoros is a psak of R' Moshe quoted from the Sefer Zikaron in his memory (which I do not have a copy of to check) stating that ishto k'gufo does not apply here and that women must light. The same is reported by R' Hershel Shachter shlit"a in the name of the Rav.

    Your handout missed the mechudash approach of R' Shterbruch in Moadim u'Zmanin vol 2 # 133 to justify women not lighting based on the chiyuv hadlakah stemming from a chovas hatzibur - take a look.

  6. I am still hoping you will Post topic of the Halachic things you saw by Reb Moshe That people dont do.

  7. It is ironic that you mention R' Akiva Eiger's reference to the Besomim Rosh. In many circles (including R' Ovadyah Yosef)this sefer is considered a forgery by a latter-day maskil. This is based on a statement to that effect by the Chasam Sofer, who, as we all recognize, had ruach hokodesh.

    On the other hand, R' Akiva Eiger, whose references give credence to the reliability of this sefer - did he have ruach hakodesh?

    I bring this up because it parallels the issue of what constitutes a rov, and how to be machria when there are gedolim on both sides, especially when the ruach hakodesh infallibility card is played.

  8. I have no idea if Reb Akiva Eiger had ruach hakodesh. But apparently he had a son in law that did. I just saw that the introduction to the Mikdash Dovid quotes Reb Baruch Ber as saying that Reb Dovid Rapaport must have had ruach hakodesh to write that sefer.