Menorah at the Gaza Front

Ask the Rov: How should soldiers at war in Gaza fulfill the mitzva of ner Chanuka?

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

Chazal instituted the mitzva of ner Chanuka as an obligation on each family or “home.”1 An unmarried soldier away from home can, if he wants, rely on his father’s hadlaka at home, and that is the minhag of the Sefardim.2 Ashkenazim, however, have the custom that each person lights on their own, and he should light where he is.3

With a married soldier whose wife is lighting at home, the situation is more complex, since the Beis Yosef holds that lighting would be an unnecessary bracha. Yet, the Terumas Hadeshen holds that he can choose not to be yotzei with his wife’s lighting so he can light on his own.4

What about a soldier in combat at the front?

The mitzvah of ner Chanuka is “ner ish ubeiso,” to have candles lit at one’s home.5 Thus it would seem, that one who doesn’t have a home or place of lodging for the night (i.e. he is in transit) isn’t obligated to light.6 A temporary home — an enclosed area such as a train compartment rented for the night — qualifies as a “home” according to some.7

Soldiers on the battlefield who are sleeping in tents, tanks, or abandoned homes, can light at these stations. Soldiers sleeping under the open sky are subject to a debate in halacha. While some say that they don’t light at all since they are “homeless,”89 others contend that the mitzva of Chanuka candles is on the person and not connected to a home at all, and even soldiers sleeping outdoors should light.10 Out of doubt, some poskim conclude that they should light without a bracha.11

See Sources (open PDF)

From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash

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