Lighting Menorah When Traveling

Ask the Rov: We are driving through the night. Must we rent a hotel room to fulfill the mitzva of ner Chanuka?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah

Chazal instituted an obligation for each family or individual to light a menorah by their home.1 In addition, there is a personal obligation upon each person to see the candles (roeh) and express thanks to Hashem with the brachos of she’asa nissim (and shehecheyanu on the first night).

Rashi notes that this bracha for seeing the candles is intended for one who does not have a home and therefore doesn’t light his own menorah.2 Though it’s possible to understand that one doesn’t need to find a home to light, some poskim say that this can refer to one who doesn’t have lodging due to circumstances beyond his control. However, when possible, one might be obligated to rent lodging each night of Chanuka to be able to light.

Some consider this issue to be a machlokes Rishonim:

Rambam writes that the menorah lighting is an obligatory mitzva that every individual must seek out to fulfill, implying that one must therefore see to it that they have lodging.3 Whereas Tosefos explain that menorah has a bracha for “seeing” the candles – unlike other mitzvos – since the obligation only applies if one has a home (like mezuza), implying that one isn’t required to arrange lodging.4

Some acharonim hold that this obligation is so absolute that one would be required to collect money or sell their clothing if needed to rent a space, just as they would to buy the candles (though if someone lends them a space that will also suffice).5

In practice, one should avoid being without lodgings on any night of Chanukah, and if they are on the road all night, they should try to rent a hotel room to stop in and light. If that isn’t an option, they may light with all the brachos wherever they stop the car (considering that spot as their “home”),6 provided that the candles remain lit for half an hour.7 However, one who will arrive at their real home later that night cannot consider the stop their “home,” and they may not fulfill their lighting obligation there.

One who will be all night in a place where he cannot light a fire (e.g. airplane, hospital), he should have a family member light at his home on his behalf. Some say that he should also light an electric menorah or flashlight without a bracha.8 But in general, one should endeavor not to come to such a situation where he won’t be able to light Chanukah candles, considering the obligation to even rent lodging.9

See Sources (open PDF)

From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash

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