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Thought for the Day: Chanuka Licht When No One Is Home

I don't like traveling without my wife.  Ok... I don't like traveling at all, but it's even worse without my wife.  I have one comfort this time, though; I am traveling during Chanuka and my wife is staying the whole week with a friend a few blocks from our house.  Do you realize how many cool sh'eilos that raises?  So the ha'na'ah of basking in the glow of limud ha'Torah to discover the halacha in an intricate but dead on l'ma'aseh situation helps to make up for missing my wife.  Just a little, honey; really!  That and, of course, meeting my newest einikl and spending time with her older brother and sister, and with my daughter and her husband.  Even so, I miss you, honey; really.  Don't even think thought such as, "Methinks he doth protest too much."  Even surrounded by our beautiful children and grandchildren, I miss you.  A lot.  Really.

Here's the issue.  The basic situation that requires chanuka licht to be lit is "ish u'beiso"/a person and his home.  The simple case, of course, is a husband and wife at home with their 2.3 children and the goldfish is required, mi'din ha'gemara, to light one candle.  Our minhag is that each person lights his own and that each night we light one candle to commemorate the miracle of the oil burning that long, plus a candle for each of the previous days to show that the miracle was greater each day that it lasted, plus one candle designated to be not in commemoration of the miracle (usually that is also the candle used to light the miracle candles).  Note an important detail: each "person" means each child (male child for yekis) and one for the husband/wife unit; ishto k'gufo is not just a snazzy expression, it is the halachik reality.  Women are also obligated in the lighting of chanuka licht because "af hein b'oso ha'neis"; they were also included in the miracle of chanuka (and, in fact, played a crucial role in our victory).

That's the standard, simple case; but this is Torah (ie, Reality), and nothing is as simple as it seems.

 Suppose you have an empty nesting couple (I would include "or before children", but I don't remember a time before children) and the man is not and cannot be home (on a plane, for example) during the entire time of lighting; we're not talking about that now, but to make it simple, he got on the plane before plag ha'mincha and did not debark till after he finished davening k'vasikin.  Even though he is not home, it still is his home (the plane was only a temporary shelter, not his home), so he will need to appoint a shaliach.  Unless his wife is home; isho k'gufo works both ways and her lighting is just as good as his lighting.  (If the man is home, of course, he should light for them, just as he makes kiddush even though she has an equal obligation.)

Now suppose he is for a few days somewhere else; say, oh... I don't know... say at his children's house visiting their grandchildren (who are so cute there is obviously a mitzvah to spend time with them), but his wife (whom he misses; really) is at home.  That's when we get the case my math teacher daughter knew off the top of her head; go Miriam!  He can still be technically yotzi with his wife's lighting, though it is better for him to include himself with his children's lighting (he needs to give them some money for the oil to partner up with them; not usually a problem), or (better) to light himself, but without a bracha (better to hear their bracha and have in mind to be yotzi) because his wife already lit two hours before, or (best) arrange for her not to have in mind to be motzi him and he can light himself with a bracha.

One more step... he is away (doing a mitzvah) and she is also away (also doing a mitzvah; bikur cholim), but only a few blocks.  Do we still say she has her own obligation to light, so her lighting a couple of hours before her husband will still motzi him?  Or do we say that he and she each now have their own obligation and they both light?  Or do we say that now that she isn't home we revert to the usual ishto k'gufo and she doesn't need to light at all?  What about the fact that according to some shitos that his lighting two hours after she can, and therefore it will be after the ikar z'man of lighting?  Or do we say...

Ok; bottom line, I called R' Fuerst, shlita.  He told me we should both light where we are and with all the appropriate brachos.  You want to know all the different sides of the question and different shitos?  Go get a Dirshu Mishna Brura; but I hope you started already... whoa Nelly -- mai chanuka!


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