For the week ending 15 December 2012 / 1 Tevet 5773

Chanuka: A Bochur's Perennial Predicament

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
Library Library Library Kaddish

One fascinating issue that affects many thousands annually is the quite contemporary question: Where is the proper place for a Yeshiva Bochur to light his Menorah? Since the phenomenon of having a yeshiva where students not only eat but also dorm is relatively recent, there is not much early Rabbinic literature on this exact topic. Bochurim are not really guests, and might be getting their spending money from their parents - who are usually paying their tuition; yet, many do not live at home. So, they do not seem to fit into any clear-cut category. What is a striving student to do?

A ‘Fiery’ Debate

Contemporary authorities use precedents as clues to ascertain the proper solution for the Bochur Dilemma. One relevant debate is that of where a guest who generally eats at another’s house but “comes home to roost” is supposed to light his Chanuka candles. The Shulchan Aruch, quoting the Tur and Rosh[1], states that a guest (Achsanoi) is required to light his own Menorah, or at least contribute to the host’s Chanuka candle expenses[2]. However, if this guest, even a son who’s hanging out at his parents’ place, has his own apartment (that opens to a public thoroughfare) where he sleeps, then he must light his Menorah there. The reason is because of Chashad, suspicion. Since passersby know that our Achsanoi has his own pad, and will notice whether or not there was a lit Menorah there, they will suspect that he did not light a Menorah at all, not knowing that he eats his meals out and possibly would have kindled there. Accordingly, it would seem that the place where one sleeps is considered his key “dwelling place”.

However, the Rema[3], citing the Rashba[4], asserts that one should light his Menorah in the place where he eats. He explains that “nowadays” since we light indoors[5], the ‘Pursumei Nissa’ is no longer actually meant for random passersby, but rather for the people living in the house. If so, there is no reason to be worried about Chashad, as his family and friends would know that he eats in one place and sleeps in another. Therefore, he rules that such an Achsanoi would light his Menorah where he eats, and not where he sleeps. Many great authorities, including the Bach, Magen Avraham, Taz, Pri Chadash, Pri Megadim, Aruch Hashulchan and Mishna Berura[6] all agree with the Rema, that a guest who eats in one place yet sleeps in another should light his Menorah where he eats. The Taz adds proof to this from the halachos of Eruv Chatzaros[7] that for one who sleeps in one location but eats in another, his main dwelling place is considered where he eats.

Accordingly, it would seem that a Yeshiva Bochur might fit into this category, as he (hopefully) eats in a different location than where he sleeps. So where should he light? The Yeshiva’s dining room or in his dira / dorm room?

Dira Daze

Several authorities, including the Chazon Ish, Rav Aharon Kotler, the Steipler Gaon, and Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky[8] maintain that the Rema’s ruling still holds true and rule that the proper place for a Bochur to light the Menorah is the Yeshiva’s dining room.

However, many other contemporary decisors question the application of the halacha of a guest pertaining to the average Bochur, due to several reasons, including:

  1. A Bochur’s “dwelling place”, where he feels “at home” and considers his own personal place, storing all of his belongings, etc. is in his dira / dorm room, and not in the yeshiva’s communal dining room.
  2. Students have no personal stake in the dining room; they eat and leave, similar to a restaurant. Therefore, many consider it a stretch to consider a dining room as a Bochur’s “prime dwelling place”.
  3. Many Yeshiva dining rooms are locked throughout the day and only open mealtimes. How can it possibly be considered someone’s personal place if he is denied entry most of the time?
  4. It is possible that a Yeshiva Bochur’s din is more comparable to the case of the shepherd (or talmid) that lives in the field yet eats at someone’s house, that for him the Techum follows the place where he sleeps, and not where he eats[9].
  5. For those living in Eretz Yisrael, nowadays most people do light the Chanuka licht outdoors, potentially making the Rosh’s shitta once again the core ruling. Ergo, Chashad might once again be a problem. Therefore, one living in Eretz Yisrael should need to light where he sleeps.

Due to these concerns, many contemporary decisors, including Rav Moshe Feinstein, the Minchas Yitzchak, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner, Rav Moshe Sternbuch, Rav Binyomin Zilber, Rav Nosson Gestetner, Rav Menashe Klein, Rav Yaakov Blau, the Rivevos Efraim, and Neta’i Gavriel[10], all rule that the main dwelling of a Bochur is his dira / dorm room, and that is the preferred place where he should light his Menorah. Yet, several of these Poskim assert that in order not to come into a halachic dispute and to better satisfy all opinions, it is preferable that the Bochurim should eat at least one meal a day in their dorm room. Others advocate contributing to someone lighting in the dining room’s Chanuka candle expenses, or lighting again there without a bracha.

Safety First

Yet, it must be stressed that many of these Poskim qualify their ruling, explaining that if the hanhala of the Yeshiva forbids lighting Menorahs in the dorm due to the ever possible threat of fire, R”L, and instead orders the Bochurim to light in the dining room, then that is indeed what they must do[11].

Sefardic Illumination

Sefardi Bochurim have a bit of a different issue. Sefardim predominantly follow the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling of only the head of the household, functioning as an agent of sorts, lighting one Menorah for the entire family[12]. Poskim are divided as to whether these Sefardi Bochurim who eat and sleep in Yeshiva are considered part of their father’s household or not. Many rule that a Sefardi Bochur may not light in his Yeshiva at all, as he is exempted by his father lighting at home[13]. Others maintain that a Bochur living in Yeshiva is deemed ‘his own man’ and therefore even a Sefardi Bochur would be required to light his own Menorah, or join in with someone else lighting (preferably an Ashkenazi Bochur) in his Yeshiva[14] [15]. One should ascertain from his Rav or Rosh Yeshiva which opinion the Yeshiva follows before Chanuka, to mitigate any potential halachic mix-ups.

The Gemara[16] teaches, and is later codified in halacha, that someone who is scrupulous withkindling Ner Shabbos and Ner Chanuka will merit having sons who are Talmidei Chachamim. Therefore, it certainly seems worthwhile and apropos that our budding Talmidei Chachamim should be meticulous in making sure that their lighting of the Menorah is truly “mehadrin min hamehadrin”.

[1]Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 677, 2), Tur (ad loc.), quoting his father, the Rosh.

[2]See Gemara Shabbos 23a, passage about Rav Sheishes.

[3]Darchei Moshe (O.C. 677, 1) and in his Glosses to the Shulchan Aruch (ad loc.).

[4]Shu”t HaRashba (vol. 1, 542). See the Taz’s (O.C. 677, 2) explanation of the Rashba’s intent. Although others argue that this was not necessarily the Rashba’s true intent, nonetheless, in the words of the Pri HaSadeh (Shu”t vol. 2, 70) “we need to pasken like the Rashba, according to the Taz’s understanding”.

[5]See Darchei Moshe (O.C. 671, 9), Rema (O.C. 671, end 8), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 54), and Biur Halacha (O.C. 677 s.v. pesach).

[6]O.C. 677 - Bach (s.v. uma”sh haRosh), Magen Avraham (6 & 7), Taz (2), Pri Chadash, Pri Megadim (E.A. 5), Aruch Hashulchan (3), Mishna Berura (11). The Rema, as well as several others, maintain that in their times, even the Rosh would agree to the Rashba’s ruling.

[7]See Gemara Eruvin (72b - 74b) and Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 370, 5) and main commentaries.

[8]These decisors’ opinions are cited in Ma’aseh Ish (vol. 4, pg. 132), Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 2, 342, 11), Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 3, pg. 25 - 26), Rav Shimon Eider’s Sefer Hilchos Chanuka (pg. 37, footnote 32), and Emes L’Yaakov (on Shulchan Aruch O.C. 677, footnote 591). A similar ruling is given by the Pri HaSadeh (Shu”t vol. 2, 70).

[9]Case based on Gemara Eruvin 73a. See Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 409, end 7), Magen Avraham (ad loc. 14), and Pri Megadim (ad loc. E.A. 14).

[10]Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe Y”D vol. 3, 14, 5 & O.C. vol. 4, 70, 3), the Minchas Yitzchak (Shu”t vol. 7, 48), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Mo’adim vol. 1 Ch. 14, 5, pg. 273 -275), Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (cited in Shvus Yitzchak on Hilchos Chanuka pg. 112; also in Ashei HaIsh O.C. vol. 3 pg. 269 – 270, 36, and personally told to this author by his noted talmid, Rav Nochum Eisenstein; and not like what is quoted in Shu”t Divrei Chachamim Ch. 43, 491), Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner (Shu”t Shevet HaLevi vol. 3, 83), Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 2, 157, 7 s.v. u’linyan & 342, 11; Mo’adim U’Zmanim vol. 6, 88), Rav Binyomin Zilber (Shu”t Az Nidberu vol. 5, 38, 2), Rav Nosson Gestetner (Shu”t L’Horos Nosson vol. 6, 44), Rav Menashe Klein (Shu”t Mishna Halachos vol. 11, 538), Rav Yaakov Blau (Sefer Chovas HaDar Ch. 1, footnote 59), the Rivevos Efraim (Shu”t vol. 4, 163, 2) and Neta’i Gavriel (on Chanuka pg. 16).

[11]See Emes L’Yaakov, Halichos Shlomo, Shu”t Az Nidberu, Shu”t Shevet HaLevi, and Mo’adim U’Zmanim (ibid.). The reason is that according to several shittos, the dining room is the preferred local for lighting; and even according to the majority who argue, nevertheless, most hold that it is still second best. However, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe ibid.) writes that it is preferable that different Bochurim take turns watching the Menorahs in the dorms to make sure that a fire does not break out.

[12]Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 671, 2), based on Tosafos (Shabbos 21b s.v. hamehadrin).

[13]Including Rav Ovadia Yosef (Shu”t Yechaveh Daas vol. 6, 43), Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (Darchei Halacha Glosses to Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139, 28), Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Kovetz Zichron Yehuda vol. 1, pg. 104), the Tefilla L’Moshe (Shu”t vol. 2, 52), and Rav Ezra Attiah (quoted in several of the above sources). Rav Ovadia Yosef (Chazon Ovadia on Chanuka pg. 150 - 151, and in Yalkut Yosef on Moadim pg. 231, 2) and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo ibid. footnote 22; however, he prefers that the Sefardi Bochur join into someone else’s lighting) maintain that even if a Bochur is in a different country and time zone than his parents (ex. an American Sefardi boy learning in Eretz Yisrael), he nevertheless should still not light his own Menorah, as he is still considered part of their household, since the father is still sending him allowance, paying his tuition and expenses etc. However, most other poskim (including Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu) do not agree, and in this instance maintain that the Bochur is required to light his own Menorah. See sefer Toras HaYeshiva (Ch. 12 at length).

[14]Shu”t Yaskil Avdi (vol. 7, Hashmatos 8), Rav Shalom Mashash (cited in R’ Moshe Harari’s sefer Mikraei Kodesh, Hilchos Chankuka Ch.9, 26, footnote 93; see also Shu”t Tevuos Shemesh O.C. 7), and Rav Yehuda Adess (Sefer Shiurei Chanuka 14). This is also how many Ashkenazic poskim ruled for Sefardim, including the Chazon Ish (Ma’aseh Rav vol. 4, pg. 131), Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Shvus Yitzchak ibid.) and the Az Nidberu (ibid.).

[15]All the Sefardim can get together and light one Menorah. Alternatively, the Sefardi Bochur might fulfill his obligation by the Menorah lighting in the Beis HaMidrash (see Shu”t Yechaveh Daas ibid.).

[16]Shabbos 23b; Rashi s.v. banim, Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos Ch. 5, 1), Tur / Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 263, 1), and Mishna Berura (ad loc. 2) See also Sod Hadlakas Ner Chanuka from the Raavad’s son. There are additional ways of understanding this passage as well; for example, see Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 264, 38).

© 1995-2019 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions

« Back to Chanukah

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) and your donation is tax deductable.