- Question: [Tuesday, 29th Kisleiv 5781]
My father lives in an assisted living complex and has tremendous difficulty moving around, including movement of his arms. I have tried to be with him for each night of Hanukkah to light the candles with him although tonight I will not be able to do so, and was wondering if I could have his Gentile caretaker light the candles for him and have him say the blessings beforehand. I had actually already asked another well-known Rav and Posek [name provided but withheld from publication here], and he told me that I could do so, although afterwards I remembered learning [not sure where] that this is not allowed. Can you please reconfirm his ruling?
Unfortunately, the ruling that you were given is a mistake, as it is invalid for a Gentile to light the candles on a Jews behalf, and it is forbidden to say a blessing on such a lighting. I reached out to the Rav who gave you the ruling and after talking to him he understood that he made a mistake and retracted from his inaccurate Pesak. What you can do is instruct the Gentile caretaker to assist your father in doing the lighting himself, and so long as your father is holding the lit candle at the time that the candles are lit, it is valid. Alternatively, if necessary, you can have your father light a single candle with the blessings and have a Gentile light the remaining ones if it is too difficult for your father to light all of them. However, the menorah should be resting on a table or other surface while it is lit, and one should initially not have the Gentile or any other person hold it in his hands for the Jew to light and then put it down. If the above is too difficult, then try to find another Jew at the facility who can light the menorah for your father and then he can say the blessing before that Jew lights his menorah. Both a male and female Jew are valid for this purpose.
Explanation: A Gentile is an invalid emissary to light the Hanukkah candles as is understood from the explicit rulings in the Shulchan Aruch which invalidates the lighting of the mentally insane, or Cheresh, and even a Jewish child, from being used as an emissary to light on one’s behalf being that they are not obligated in the mitzvah, and thus certainly the same applies for a Gentile, that he is an invalid emissary. In conversation with the above Rav who initially gave the inaccurate ruling he explained that he based his ruling on the fact that by the laws of Shabbos it is explicitly ruled that a Gentile may light on a woman’s behalf and have her say the blessing. I explained to him that by Hanukkah lighting the ruling is different as proven from above sources and that the reason for the difference is because by Shabbos candles the main thing is the benefit from the light “Shalom Bayis” and hence a blessing can be said even when a Gentile lights, as the main thing is that a candle has been lit. However, by the Hanukkah lighting the main thing is the actual lighting itself, as Hadlaka Oseh Mitzvah, and it is forbidden to benefit from the light, and hence it can only be lit by a Jew. The Rav agreed with this explanation and retracted from his ruling, and likewise agreed for us to publish this question and answer in this format and thanked us for saving him from causing the person to have an invalid lighting.
Sources: See regarding the invalidation of the Gentile lighting: Michaber 675:3; Article of Rav Yosef Zevin in Yagdil Torah T.Z. 6:50, See there in great length! See regarding if the menorah may be held in one’s hand during the lighting: Michaber 675:1; Rava Shabbos 23b; Taz 675:3; brought in M”B 675:7; P”M 675 M”Z 3; Elya Raba 675:4; Mamar Mordechai 675:6; brought in Kaf Hachaim 675:12; Peri Chadash, brought in P”M ibid and Kaf Hachaim 675:13; See regarding Jewish men and women are valid emissaries to light on one’s behalf: Michaber 675:3; M”A 675:4; Taz 675:4; Agudah; Bach; Kneses Hagedola; Levush; Olas Shabbos 675:1; Peri Chadash 675; Elya Raba 675:6; Regarding overturning the ruling of a previous Rav who was asked the same question: See Rama 242:31 that if he made a mistake in “Devar Mishneh” then a second Rav may retract it, and even if the mistake is based on logic one may discuss it with the Rav until he retracts it, and therefore there is no prohibition to ask a second opinion if one lets the second Rabbi know that he had asked a previous Rav and informs him of his ruling; Nidda 20b