The custom is for the father or husband to light the Chanukkiah. If this is not possible, is it better to have your brother (younger) or mother light it, or is it better to light it yourself?


Answered by Rabbi Yakov Shub

Dear L.,

Initially, according to Ashkenazim custom, it is desirable that both mother and brother light Hanukkah candles with blessings. As for you, there are different customs here - whether daughters who have not yet married and live with their parents should light up (see below).

Let us now briefly explain these laws. Despite the fact that lighting Hanukkah candles is a “commandment associated with time,” and usually women are exempt from performing this kind of commandments, the sages obliged women to light Hanukkah candles as well. Reason: The miracle of Hanukkah also applies to women. Firstly, one of the Greek laws was directed specifically against Jewish women. The girl who was getting married was taken to the house of the Greek governor before the wedding. The purpose of this law was to undermine the sanctity of the Jewish family. Secondly, deliverance also came through a woman - Yehudit put to sleep and killed the Greek governor (Mishna Berurah 675:10). Usually, if the husband is at home, then the wife does not light the candles herself, since she is part of the husband and “fulfills” the commandment “through him.” However, if the husband is not at home, the wife must light it herself (Shulchan Oruch 675:3 and Mishnah Berura 675:9).

It is an Ashkenazi custom for all family members (except the wife, see above) to light candles separately (Ramo 671:2). Therefore, sons who are old enough to light candles on their own (approximately 3-4 years of age) usually also light separately (Ramo 675:3).

As for daughters who have not yet married and live with their parents (regardless of their age), there are different customs. In many families, daughters do not light up at all. Hatam Sofer (1762-1839), a prominent rabbi and leader of Hungarian Jewry, explains this custom as follows. Since the sages initially decreed that it was necessary to light Hanukkah candles at the exit from the courtyard facing a crowded street, they were afraid to send their daughters there: it was not good for young Jewish girls to be in a crowded place in the evening. However, in some families, daughters also light separately. In your case: if you have such a desire, then you can also light it separately, especially if you feel that this will help your further progress in keeping the commandments. However, if due to circumstances the mother and brother cannot light, this is no longer just a custom - you have the responsibility to light the candles for the whole family.

Sincerely, Yakov Shub.