In the previous Halachot we have discussed that according to the Sephardic custom, only the head of the household lights Chanukah candles with a blessing as opposed to the rest of the members of the household. For this reason, Sephardic Yeshiva students lodging at their Yeshiva for the duration of Chanukah should rely on the candles being lit at home and not light Chanukah candles in the Yeshiva. According to the Ashkenazi custom, Yeshiva students light with a blessing while in Yeshiva as well; nevertheless, there is a difference of opinion if the candles should be lit in the Yeshiva’s dining room or in the dormitory rooms.
Let us now discuss a new topic related to lighting Chanukah candles.
Maran Ha’Bet Yosef (Chapter 677) states: “I have found the following written in the name of Rabbeinu Yitzchak Abohav: The Orchot Chaim writes that if one travels to a non-Jewish town where there are no Jews and lodges there during the nights of Chanukah, although one has no designated house there, we have heard that the custom of Rabbeinu Meshulam was to light Chanukah candles and recite a blessing over them in commemoration of the miracle. The Orchot Chaim adds that one who is lodging in a non-Jew’s home should light Chanukah candles with a blessing even if Chanukah candles are being lit on his behalf at home.”
Let us now explain this:
The primary obligation to light Chanukah candles applies to anyone who has a house. According to the letter of the law, one candle per house is sufficient for every night of Chanukah, as we have already established. If candles are being lit on one’s behalf at his home, even if the individual is in a different place, one need not light Chanukah candles where he is presently located.
Rabbeinu Meshulam teaches us a novel law that if one is staying in a place where no Chanukah candles are being lit at all, although candles are being lit on one’s behalf at home, one must nevertheless light Chanukah candles in one’s present location, for there is no public commemoration being made for the miracle of Chanukah in this place. Thus, in such a situation, one will not be exempted by the commemoration of the Chanukah miracle being performed in one’s home.
Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch quotes Rabbeinu Meshulam’s opinion as Halacha and rules that even if Chanukah candles are being lit on one’s behalf at home, if one is currently in a place where there are no Jews at all, one must light Chanukah candles with a blessing there.
The great Acharonim deliberate regarding whether or not one should follow this ruling of Rabbeinu Meshulam as quoted by Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch. Halachically speaking, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l defends the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (in his Chazon Ovadia-Chanukah, page 158) and rules that if one is in a completely non-Jewish town or village during Chanukah, although candles are being lit at home on one’s behalf, one must nevertheless light Chanukah candles in the location one is in.
The same law would apply to soldiers on a military base in that if someone is lighting on their behalf at home, such as a father or wife, according to our custom, the soldier would not light Chanukah candles at all on the base. Nevertheless, if the base is in vicinity where no Chanukah candles are being lit at all, one soldier must light Chanukah candles with a blessing so that candles will be kindled there as well. (If there is large distance between several groups of soldiers on the same base, a halachic authority should be consulted.)