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Thought for the Day: Lighting Shabbos Candles Away from Home

I was once discussing mishloach manos with a talmid chacham who was kind enough to learn with me.  The question was whether one could be yotzi the mitzvah even if the recipient refused to accept the gift.  I said that of course one was yotzi; I had just learned that section in the Mishna Brura and was very confident.  My chavrusa said, "Let's look it up."  Still feeling cocky, I went to get volume 6 of the Mishna Brura (see! I even knew which cheilek... confidence really soaring now).  And there it was (after some searching), siman 695:2, the Rema says straight out that even if your friend refuses the gift, one has still fulfilled his obigation.  I felt invincible.  "Well, " said my chavrusa, "I guess that's ok if you want to hide behind a Rema."  That threw me; hide behind a Rema?  "Look at the Mishna Brura."  Feeling a bit uncertain at this point, I looked down and found (s.k. 24), "The Pri Chadash disagrees and the Chasam Sofer in siman 196 is astounded by this [p'sak of the Rema]."  Oh.  Completely unnerved, but I had just learned a valuable lesson; you actually need to read all the words before coming to a conclusion.

It's many years later and I have only grown in my respect for the genius of the Mishna Brura and even its sidekicks, the Bi'ur Halacha and Sha'ar ha'Tziyun.  The Sha'ar haTziyun is much more than simply citations.  It's always worth taking a glance to the bottom of the page; if you see more than a dozen or so letters in the citation, you really ought to read it.

The Bi'ur Halacha is even more frustrating.  Often he is just clarifying why he refrained from bringing certain opinions.  Other times he is addressing some side point.  Then there are those out of the blue, "Oh here... let me clarify everything."  Those are golden, and frustrating to find as they can be buried in a morass of details.  None the less, well worth seeking.

One such example is on 263:6, d.h. Bachurim; discussing what guests should do about lighting Shabbos candles.  In particular, men traveling without their wives.  I always found when, where, and who lights to be very confusing.  The Bi'ur Halacha clarifies.  There are two principles in force here.  First, each room (to be used over Shabbos) in household must have light to enhance shalom bayis.  Second, the ba'al ha'bayis has an obligation to light.  When a person is home, then candles in many rooms can be lit with only one bracha; similar to the case of checking several rooms for chameitz with one bracha.  Moreover, when he is home with his wife, then she lights (as she has a greater obligation) and he is yotzi because of "ishto k'gufo" -- a man and his wife are one entity.  When he is traveling, however, his wife's lighting does not help him.  In that case, his obligation will depend on whether or not he has his own room.  If he has his own room, then he must light with a bracha to have light in his room.  If he is sharing the room, then one person in the room (or the ba'al ha'bayis if he is there) is motzi everyone.

Now why didn't the saintly Chafeitz Chaim just put that straight into the Mishna Brura?  Maybe he wants us to read all the words.

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