On Monday night, February 25, Rabbi Herschel Welcher, rav of Congregation Ahavas Yisroel, shared an enlightening shiur for women at the shul on the topic of neiros. This was the first of a three-part series, the third of which was this past Monday, March 11.
Rabbi Welcher began with a teaching of Chazal that “Neiros that we light for Shabbos and Yom Tov bring spirituality into the world.” He stated, “Women are zocheh to bring heavenly light into our lives and our world.” He taught that there is a practical dimension to lighting neiros. In the absence of neiros, there is no shalom bayis. People would be stumbling in the dark. He noted that “because of electrification, we are not as sensitive to lighting as we should be.” He taught that part of the mitzvah of neiros Shabbos is lighting the whole house. The most significant place is where we eat the Shabbos seudah. Since women tend to be responsible for running the household, Chazal gave the responsibility of lighting neiros to women. He stated, “It’s a special, poignant, and sublime mitzvah.”
He shared a story about a non-frum woman who flew from California to visit Israel. She walked past a home in B’nei Brak at the time of candle-lighting and witnessed a woman lighting. The California woman was so awestruck by this holy experience that she decided to become observant.
Traditionally, when women light candles, it is an opportunity for special prayers. When we have a special opportunity to perform a mitzvah, this creates an eis ratzon. This is a time women historically davened to Hashem. He noted, “It’s a particular time to daven for our children’s success in becoming ehrliche Yidden. Some recite T’filas Chanah and others recite the t’filah of the Shelah HaKadosh.”
He taught that we would be yotzei the mitzvah of neiros with one candle; however, the minhag emerged to light two candles: one for Zachor and one for Shamor. Zachor stands for the positive mitzvos of Shabbos, and Shamor stands for the negative ones, and Shabbos stands on these two pillars. The activities we refrain from on Shabbos push the world out and connect us more to Hashem, just as the active mitzvos that we perform draw us closer to Hashem. Thus, women light two candles, but there are endless minhagim after that. It is a common practice to light one candle for each child. Women should follow their mother’s and grandparents’ minhag, and if you are from a non-frum family, ask one of your mentors.
Rabbi Welcher continued. The Shulchan Aruch says that, historically, when women make a brachah on the neiros, they are accepting Shabbos. Men do not have this din. This is the reason when a woman lights the Shabbos candles she first lights them and then covers her eyes so as not to yet benefit from the light. She says the brachah and uncovers her eyes to then benefit from the neiros.
He taught that after a woman lights candles and accepts Shabbos, she cannot daven Minchah.
On Yom Tov, the preferred method is to recited the brachah on the neiros and then to light them. We should accept Yom Tov by lighting at the regular candle lighting time. If a woman cannot accept Shabbos where she lights, then she can make a t’nai where she explicitly states she is not accepting Shabbos at this time. She can light on a t’nai and then daven Minchah.
He advised that a woman should light on time, as using the 18 minutes is a slippery slope. You cannot light earlier than plag haMinchah. Rabbi Welcher taught, “All lights in the house are part of this mitzvah of neiros.” The candles we light on the table should last until the end of the Shabbos meal. Yom Tov candles should last until the end of the Seder. Today, open flame is considered dangerous and many are nervous to place candles on the table. However, they should be placed in a spot where they are visible during the meal. If a lit candle is lying down, you should pick it up and put it back where it belongs as this poses danger to life. In a hotel, he advised to plug in an incandescent night light and then light the candles downstairs and have the night light in your room in mind. This night light should not be an LED light.
He taught if a woman forgot to light Shabbos candles once, there is a minhag to add an extra candle. This does not apply to forgetting to light Yom Tov candles.
If you are not eating at home, you should light and benefit from the neiros after nightfall. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l didn’t like the notion of unattended neiros. He preferred women to light where they are eating. If someone else will be home, then the preference is to light in your own home.
This informative shiur was followed by questions and answers.
By Susie Garber