Monday, December 26, 2005

Chanukah: Another Newsletter Essay

Extracurricular Talmud Enrichment II

This past week, one of the וואס איז דער חילוק – What is the Distinction issues we discussed was the following question:

At times and in places in which Chanukah candles are lit out of doors, they are placed at the entrance to one's courtyard. The halachah is that a person who has two entrances to his courtyard on different sides of his house must light candles at each of the entrances. He must do this lest a person who passes on one side of the house — not knowing that the owner lit on the other side of the house — might suspect that the owner of this house does not fulfill the obligation of lighting candles.

On the other hand, if candles were inadvertently extinguished shortly after lighting, they need not be lit again (כבתה אין זקוק לה). This is the case even if they had not yet burned the requisite half hour, so long as the original amount of fuel could have sufficed for that time.

Why in the latter case didn't Chazal require the person whose candles went out to re-light them lest people come to suspect that he is not lighting at all? וואס איז דער חילוק – why in the case of two entrances were Chazal concerned with suspicion, but not in the case of the candles that went out?

Several talmidim (including Eitan Fine and Yehoshua Bloom) answered along the same lines as does Rav Scheinberg shlita: Chazal might expand your fulfillment of a obligation, but they did not make you repeat a obligation. In the former case, due to the suspicion factor, Chazal decreed that at the time that you are lighting your primary candles — at the time you are fulfilling the obligation — you should expand that act to include all the entrances to your courtyard. In the latter case, however, you have already fulfilled the obligation — with your initial lighting. Chazal do not make you repeat an obligation in order to avoid suspicion.

Two talmidim (Mordechai Chevinsky and Yehuda Popack) gave a novel answer that I think might even be better than the one given by Rav Scheinberg: In the latter case, where the candles went out, it is true that this evening passersby will not see that you have lit candles (as would also be the case if they came after the half hour elapsed). But they will see the candles when they pass by on any other evening of Chanukah. Hence, Chazal did not need to make you re-light the candles to avoid suspicion. On the other hand, in the former case, it is possible that the passersby on one side of your house will continue, night after night, to pass by on the same side, never going out of their way to see the other side, where the candles were lit. Hence, it was necessary for Chazal to obligate you to light on all sides of your house, so as to avoid suspicion.

Finally, Yoni Rozenberg suggested that the reason Chazal did not require you to re-light candles that became extinguished because they were afraid you might come to do so on the evening of Chanukah that falls on Erev Shabbat, and perhaps light a little too late, thus being mechalel Shabbat.

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