We are beginning siman 8, which begins the Chayei Adam’s discussion of hadlakas neiros. There are two reasons behind the halacha of hadlakas neiros.
The first is shalom bayis. If a home is dark, people will trip, get hurt, and get angry, and tear apart the simcha and shalom bayos which should exist. If so, the purpose is not to have nice neiros to adorn the table, per se, but to avoid sitting in the dark. The tzadokkim held that one had to sit in the darkness, but Chazal specifically tell us that is incorrect.
The second reason we light neiros is kavod Shabbos, in that it enhances the meal. The Gemara says that a person’s pleasure from food is their ability to see it, and since there is a mitzvah of oneg Shabbos to enjoy one’s Shabbos meals, the neiros serve to help us with the mitzvah of kavod and oneg Shabbos.
Both reasons are true, and the bracha can be said in either circumstance (i.e., even if only one of these reasons applies). The chiyuv of shalom bayis requires us to keep lights on throughout the home, such as bathrooms and hallways. On the other hand, there is a separate mitzvah to light Shabbos neiros in the place where one is eating, in order to enhance the meal.
One of the questions discussed regarding hadlakas neiros is the purpose of lighting wax or oil candles nowadays, since we have electric lights. The answer is that one should turn on those electric lights with the intent that they function for kavod Shabbos as well. Rav Moshe held that one is actually yotzei their mitzvah with electric lights. Other poskim who do not go so far as to hold that one is yotzei through electricity still agree that it is still appropriate to light them as part of the process of illuminating the home for Shabbos.
The fact that there are candles present brings a certain elegance and beautification to the table., and gives it the aura of a candlelit dinner. That being said, it does not take away from the idea that the electric lights should be lit lekavod Shabbos as well.
The Chayei Adam writes that one should be very careful with hadlakas neiros, and should be scrupulous to light them at the proper time. The mitzvah applies equally to men and women. The man has a chiyuv to ensure there is illumination throughout the house, even if the woman is discharging her husband’s obligation by lighting the candles in a specific room. This mitzvah is so important, even if a person is impoverished they must beg for money to be able to cover the cost of illumination. However, the Chayei Adam is referring to candles which are providing the sole illumination. If one has money for their electricity but can not purchase candles, one is not obligated to beg for money to purchase candles.
- Neiros Shabbos are lit to provide illumination
- 1. to avoid discomfort and protect shalom bayis
- 2. and to enhance our oneg Shabbos.
- The mitzvah applies equally to men and women
- If one is impoverished, they must beg for money to light candles. However, if they already have electric illumination, they do not need to beg for money in order to buy candles.