shabbos candles

Weekly Shabbos Halacha Series
Halachos Series on Hilchos Shabbos

shabbos candles

Published by
Pirchei Shoshanim

A Project of
The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Written by

Rabbi Dovid
Ostroff, shlita


These Halachos were shown by Rabbi Ostroff to
HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita



Questions for the Week of Vayechi


May a person say I cannot sleep with the lights on, in the hope that a gentile will switch the lights off?

This is a very common situation and many people in different places are accustomed to a certain psak.  It is not our intention to alter that, but to merely present different halachic views.

The underlying point is that when a person says that I cannot sleep with the lights on, one is not instructing a gentile to switch off the lights rather than stating a fact in the hope that the gentile will understand the hint.

Another point is that the Jew is not benefiting directly from the actions of the gentile, which ostensibly is another reason to permit it.

So what is the halacha?

            We find two opposing views to this particular situation.

The Magen Avraham [1] says that if a person sees that a gentile is about to light a candle (that belongs to the Jew) for the Jews benefit, one must prevent that from happening.

            But surely everybody agrees to this halacha of the Magen Avraham?

            Correct, but we are talking about a specific case, which The Shulchan Aruch [2] describes as follows: candles are burning in a Jews house and a gentile lights an additional candle. The gentile also adds oil to the lamp. The halacha is that one may benefit from the candle lit by the gentile and from the lamp with the added oil for the duration of the original candles, but after these candles have burnt out, a person may not benefit from the candle lit by the gentile or from the added oil.

            What is the reason one is permitted to benefit from a candle lit by a gentile for the sake of the Jew - it seems to contradict everything we know?

            The reason is that since one had ample light before the gentile lit the new candle or added oil to the lamp, the additional light is an add-on and not the principal and one may therefore benefit from it. [3]

            Since I am permitted to benefit from the additional light (as long as the old ones are burning) may I instruct the gentile or hint that I want extra light?

            The Mishna Berura [4] says that whatever happens one may not instruct the gentile to do a melacha, even though bdiavad post factum one may benefit from the additional light. As for hinting, this is where [5] the Magen Avraham writes that the halacha says that one must protest when one sees that the gentile is about to light an extra candle.

We see from the Magen Avraham that even when a person does not derive benefit from a gentiles action, it is forbidden to hint to the gentile to perform a melacha for the Jew and when one sees that the gentile is about to do a melacha, one must protest and prevent him from doing so. [6]

            That is one school of thought, what is the other?

            The Chayei Adam argues with the Magen Avraham and says that one need not prevent the gentile from lighting a new candle when there are other candles in the room. The reasoning is that it is not considered benefiting from the gentile. Accordingly one may hint to the gentile to turn out lights etc. because it is not considered deriving benefit from the gentile.

We could say that the Chayei Adam holds that one may say to a gentile, I do not need the gas range anymore, I cannot sleep with the lights on, the light is pretty weak in here, because in all these cases one is not benefiting from the gentiles action. [7]

For a final ruling one must ask ones rav as to whether it is permitted.

            Am I permitted to say on Shabbos why did you not turn on the lights last Shabbos hoping that the lights get switched on?

            That type of hinting is forbidden according to all the poskim, because one is suggesting turning on lights by mentioning the action. It is called a direct hint and is forbidden. [8]

            May I instruct a gentile to wash the dishes when I know that a dishwasher will be used?

            Obviously this exact case in not mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch, so we will begin with a comparable issue that is mentioned and try to learn from it.

The Taz [9] describes a case where the gentile maidservant was asked to wash the dishes and to do so she lit a candle. The Taz says that since the Jew does not physically benefit from that light and since the maidservant switches it on for her own sake the Jew may use it. This is because it is has the status of a light switched on for the sake of a gentile.

The chidush (novelty) is that even though she is washing the Jews dishes, she is nevertheless switching on the lights to aid herself in the task that she is performing.

            May the Jew aid the maidservant?

            The Mishna Berura states [10] that the Jew may aid the maidservant because, as above, we view switching on the lights for the maidservants benefit. The Jew however may not wash the dishes alone because then it is seen as if the gentile switched on the lights for the sake of the Jew. [11]

            Does this imply that the maidservant may use a dishwasher?

            Indeed it does. The Jew merely instructs the gentile to wash the dishes, which can be washed bheter without involving any prohibitions, and the gentile on her own accord and for her own benefit decides to use the dishwasher. If the only alternative is using a dishwasher, it would be ossur to instruct her to wash the dishes because one is instructing her to violate an issur.

            To summarize:

  • Gentiles may switch on a light when doing so for their own benefit, even though in essence the main action is to fulfill a Jews instruction.
  • A Jew may benefit from that light.
  • A gentile may use a dishwasher to wash dishes when instructed to wash dishes, provided that there is a way for the gentile to do it bheter.

[1] Siman 276:14.

[2] Siman 276:4.

[3] See MB 276:32.

[4] Ibid.

[5] This is how the ' " initially explains the MA.

[6] In the " "  he explains the MA in another light but he still argues with him.

[7] See the MB siman 307:11 where it seems that he holds like this Chayei Adam. On the other hand there are other places where the MB or Biur Halacha seem to contradict this psak.

[8] See simon 307:2 where the Mechaber says that it is only muter when said before or after Shabbos.

[9] Taz in simon 276:5 and mentioned in the MB 276:27.

[10] Simon 276:27.

[11] MB simon 276:27.


Orchos Chaim LaRosh 

' Be a good friend to those that fear Hashem.

Mesilas Yesharim says that society is one of mans biggest influences, for good and for bad. Make sure that your social peers are positive for your spiritual growth. The Rosh seems to say here that you must be there for them; make yourself available for their needs.

For a printed version, click here.



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Note:  The purpose of this series is intended solely for the clarification of the topics discussed and not to render halachic decisions. It is intended to heighten everyone's awareness of important practical questions which do arise on this topic.  One must consult with a proper halachic authority in order to receive p'sak.