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Regarding Minhag Eretz Yisroel to Light the Menorah Outside in a Glass Case

Author: Rabbi Moshe Walter
Article Date: Saturday December 18, 2004

 
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It is common practice in Eretz Yisroel to light the menorah outside one's front door. In order to fulfill the mitzvah to place the menorah outside one's front door (Shabbos 21b), a glass case was invented to protect the candles from blowing out in the wind, enabling the lighting of the menorah outside. The side of the glass case that is open during the lighting of the menorah is closed immediately after the lighting to prevent the candles from blowing out. Does this contraption run counter to the halacha of הדלקה עושה מצוה (the mitzvah is lighting the menorah in a place where the candles would be able to remain lit for the required duration) and take unfair advantage oft the halacha כבתה אין זקוק לה (if the candles go out, one need not relight them)?

The gemara in Shabbos (21a-b) records a machlokes between R' Huna and R' Chisda whether one is required to relight the menorah if the candles go out within the required duration that they must remain lit. The gemara concludes that we follow the opinion of R' Chisda - כבתה אין זקוק לה - and one is not required to relight the candles. What is the reasoning behind this concept? The Taz (סימן תרעג:ח) understands that as soon as one lights the menorah he has fulfilled the mitzvah, and therefore if the candles blowout it is unnecessary to relight them . The Sfas Emes (Shabbos 21a) seems to take a different approach: since the candles must remain lit for a certain amount of time, it is assumed that they will be lit in a place where they could realistically remain lit for that amount of time. Since they were lit in such a place, if the candles happen to go out the lighter would not be obligated to relight them. This approach is based on Rashi to Shabbos 21a, who explains that according to R' Huna, who holds that one must relight the candles if they go out, we require the lighter to set up his menorah in a place where they can remain lit for the proper amount of time, in order to prevent negligence in relighting the candles if they go out. The inverse is seemingly true as well - according to R' Chisda, since one originally set up the candles in a place where they could have remained lit for the required duration, one need not relight them if they happen to go out on their own.

Our situation, the glass case housing the menorah, would be a nafka minah between these two understandings of כבתה אין זקוק לה. According to the Taz 's understanding, the glass contraption is a non-issue because one fulfills the mitzvah as soon as he lights the candles, and what happens afterwards is inconsequential. According to the second approach, however, the glass case is problematic, since the candles would certainly blowout if the glass door was open, which is the case during the actual lighting, the menorah is being lit in a situation where it could not remain lit for the required duration. The talmidim of the Maharil Diskin have a tradition not to use such a glass case, since the Maharil Diskin was of the opinion that the glass case is problematic for this very reason. The menorah was not set up from the beginning for it to stay lit for the required time and therefore one cannot take advantage of the halacha of כבתה אין זקוק לה. The Maharil Diskin is supported by the שלטי גבורים to Maseches Shabbos, who says that if one lights the menorah in a windy place, one would be required to relight the candles even according to the opinion of כבתה אין זקוק לה just like if he did not put enough oil in his menorah to keep It burning for the required duration. The שלטי גבורים clearly implies that the menorah must be lit in a situation where it will be able to remain lit for the required amount of time. Both the Bach (סימן תערב) and the Magen Avraham (תערב:יב) rule in accordance with this שלטי גבורים.

It is reported that the Brisker Rav (Rav Yitzchak Zev HaLevi Soloveichik) held like the Maharil Diskin and the שלטי גבורים. Many residents of Yerushalayim, as well, concerned for the Maharil Diskin's opinion, choose to light their menoros indoors rather than in a glass case outdoors.

The majority of poskim, however, do not follow the position of the Maharil Diskin. Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, for instance, understands that the שלטי גבורים only required one to relight the candles if they actually blew out, but if they remained lit despite their placement in a windy location, one has still fulfilled the mitzvah (שו"ת הר צבי ב:קיד). Regarding the glass case, Rav Frank explains, even though the candles are lit in a situation where they would go out (since the glass door is open during the lighting), since they do not actually go out, the original candle lighting is valid. Rav Moshe Shternbuch (תשובות והנהגות ב:שמב) interprets the שלטי גבורים to mean ' that only if one lit the candles in a negligent way would he have to relight them, but if the candles went out by themselves or by accident one would not be required to relight them. In our situation, where not only is the lighter not being negligent, but, quite the opposite, he is being extra careful to place the menorah in a glass case, certainly one fulfills his obligation.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky (ספר טעמא דקרא) also takes a lenient position regarding the glass case, because when one lit the candles he knew that the door would be closed immediately, so the candles are considered as if they are never in a situation where they will be blown out. Rav Moshe Haran quotes Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, who also takes a lenient position regarding the issue of the glass case (מקראי קודש פרק ז הערה יד), explaining that closing the glass door is part of the lighting process and therefore does not disqualify the mitzvah.

Due to the fact that the Brisker Rav agreed with the view of the Maharil Diskin and would therefore not use the glass case, he was forced to devise a new way to light the menorah outside. The Brisker Rav fashioned a case to hold his menorah, puncturing a hole in the bottom that enabled him to insert his hand into the ,box to light the candles, getting around the Maharil Diskin's problem and enabling a proper lighting even in the face of possible wind coming from the bottom of the case. Once the candles have been lit in a situation where, even without changing any surrounding circumstances, they could remain lit for the required duration, then one would be able to rely on כבתה אין זקוק לה. Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, quoting Rav Eliyahu Re'em, says that the Maharil Diskin himself used such a menorah case. Today one can walk the streets of Yerushalayim and see many such menorah cases being used.

May Klal Yisroel merit to return to Yerushalayim with the full redemption, when each individual will be able to decide for himself which type of menorah case to use.