Who is obligated to light candles-Men or Women

Who is obligated to light Shabbos candles-Men versus Women

 

People commonly think that the Mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles belongs specifically to women. While true in some respect, in actuality the Mitzvah and obligation of lighting Shabbos candles applies equally to men and women. It is only regarding the laws of precedence, in the event that there is a man and woman which share a household, such as a couple, in which the wife receives precedence in this Mitzvah over the man. However if a man is alone for Shabbos, he too is obligated in this Mitzvah. The reasons and explanations behind why men are obligated and why women received this special designation is explained in the footnotes.

 

Are men obligated in lighting Shabbos candles?[1]

Both men and women are obligated to have candles lit in their homes on Shabbos.[2] Nevertheless, women are more obligated in this Mitzvah [than men].[3] [Thus, in a household that contains a man and woman, such as husband and wife, or mother and son, the responsibility of fulfilling this Mitzvah falls on the woman of the house.[4] Although, if for whatever reason the wife is not lighting candles, the husband is obligated to light.] Since women are more obligated in this Mitzvah than men, therefore even if the husband desires to light the candles himself, the wife receives precedence.[5]


[1] Admur 263/5

[2] Admur ibid; Michaber 263/2; Rambam Shabbos 5; Rav Shabbos 25b “Candle lighting on Shabbos is an obligation”

The reason: As the purpose of the Mitzvah is to have Shalom Bayis within the home, so one does not stumble on any item in the dark. Additionally, it serves to give light to one’s meal and fulfills the Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos. Both of these reasons are applicable to both men and women, and there is thus no reason to assume one is obligated over the other. [See Rashi and Tosafus Shabbos ibid]

[3] Admur ibid; Michaber 263/3; based on Mishneh Shabbos 31b “On three sins women die”; Tosafus Shabbos 25b;

The reason: being that they are found in the home and deal with all the house chores. [Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; Rambam ibid] Additionally, being that she [Chava] caused the candle of the world to be extinguished [with her sin of eating from the tree of knowledge] therefore this Mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles was given to the women in order for them to fix that which they damaged. [Admur ibid; M”A 263/7 in name of Kesavim; Tur and Levush 263; Yerushalmi Shabbos 2/6; Bereishis Raba 17; Tanchuma Noach; Zohar brought in Kaf Hachaim 263/20]

[4] In other words, although both men and women are equally obligated in the Mitzvah, as stated above, nevertheless being that this Mitzvah is not an obligation of each individual but an obligation of each household, lighting one candle per household, therefore the main responsibility for its fulfillment must be delegated to someone in the house. It is regarding this point that the Poskim ibid state that women carry the responsibility of fulfilling this Mitzvah on behalf of the entire household. This is in contrast to other household Mitzva’s which fall under the responsibility of the man of the house and not the wife. See however Kuntrus Achron 263/2 that Admur explains that in truth the Mitzvah is upon the husband and not the wife, and it his responsibility to make sure the Mitzvah is fulfilled, just as is the case with any other household Mitzvah, as explained above. Furthermore, it is the husband’s responsibility to assure that there is Shalom Bayis in the home. Nonetheless, regarding this Mitzvah the Sages obligated the husband to make his wife his emissary in fulfilling this Mitzvah, and not only do we not apply the rule “Mitzvah Bo Yoser Mebishluchos” but the Shliach [which is the wife] takes precedence over the husband. [Kuntrus Achron ibid; See Olas Shabbos 263/3]

[5] Admur ibid; M”A 263/6; Bach 263

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