The gemara (Shabbat 21b) states that the mitzva of lighting candles on Chanukah is "ner ish u'beito," one candle for each man and his household. At a minimal level, this means that one candle is sufficient to fulfill the obligation of an entire household on every night. The gemara then discusses several higher levels of performance (mehadrin, etc.) such as each individual lighting for themselves and the now-common practice of adding a candle on each successive night. A bit later on, the gemara discusses the law with regard to a person who is a guest somewhere during Chanukah. The gemara states that this person does have an obligation to light, but the question is how he fulfills that obligation. Rav Zeira is quoted as saying that when he was still single he paid the owner of the house where he was a minimal amount (shaveh perutah) and thus fulfilled his obligation through the owner's lighting. However, once he got married he relied on the lighting that his wife did at home to fulfill his obligation.

Several questions present themselves at this point. What does "ner ish u'beito" mean? While at first glance, this statement seems to indicate that each physical house only requires one candle (at minimum), the law regarding a guest seems to suggest an even broader application of the law. Seemingly, "beito" refers not only to those present in the house, but to any members of the house, wherever they may be at the time of lighting. This dichotomy will be the underlying factor in our present discussion regarding students away from home, both in yeshivot and in universities (most of the discussion will be somewhat more relevant specifically for yeshiva students, but the main ideas are applicable for those in university dorm situations as well).

Rambam (Hil. Chanukah 4:11) states that a guest does not have to light in the place where he is staying if he knows that his family is lighting for him back home. However, if he has his own entrance in the place where he is staying, he must light. The reason for this second law is that if people see that his entrance has no candles lit, they will suspect that he did not fulfill his obligation at all, not realizing that he relied on his family. The Tur (O.C. 677) sharpens this idea a bit. He quotes Rosh, who speaks about a son who eats at his parents' home yet has his own place elsewhere where he sleeps. He rules that the child must light in the place where he sleeps, again so that people do not suspect that he did not light when they see that his place lacks candles. The Beit Yoseif quotes Rashba who claims that the son in this case does not have to light on his own in his place, but is obligated to become a partner (via a shaveh perutah) like any other guest, a position echoed by the Mahari Abuhav (also with regard to a son-in-law eating by his in-laws). The Bach qualifies this law, stating that the law of the Rosh was relevant in his own time, when people generally lit outside and there was a reason to worry about outsiders becoming suspicious. The Darchei Moshe claims that according to the Rashba, where a person lights nowadays is determined by where he eats and not by where he sleeps. Similar to the Bach, he says that as we no longer light outside there is no problem that by doing so others may think that he failed to light, and thus even the Rosh might agree to this law. He also brings down a debate as to whether or not guests give a shaveh perutah to the person by whom they are staying. Maharil claims that they do, while Mahari Weil says that they don't. The Aggur states in the name of Maharil that the commonly accepted custom now is for each person to light for themselves unless they know that their wife is lighting for them at home.

There is a second aspect that must also be considered. While a person does not necessarily have to light for themselves, they must at least see candles lit at some point during the night and say the blessing of "she'asa nissim" (and Shehecheyanu on the first night) upon seeing them. The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 677:3) thus claims that if a person is in a place where there are no Jews, and thus no candles are lit anywhere around him, he must light for himself even if his family is lighting for him at home. The Magen Avraham presents a further limitation on the ability to rely on the lighting done for a person by his family. He states that if a person did not light and did not consciously rely on his family, then returned home to find that they had lit for him, he must light for himself, as at the moment that they lit he failed to include himself in their lighting.

What about people who go out for only one meal? Both the Magen Avraham and the Taz state that such a person must return to his own home to light. The Taz says that this is the case even if he will not return home until several hours after the time of lighting, as at that time we see him as standing in the street, not obligated to fulfill his obligation until he returns home. Even though we stated earlier that these days the lighting is done where one eats and not where one sleeps, that is only the case if both places have a concept of "bayit" for him. If both serve as his home in some form or another (i.e. he lodges there, his parents' home, his own home) then the place where one eats that evening becomes the place where one lights. However, if one is merely a dinner guest, his host's home does not take on any status of a home with regard to him, and thus he does not light until he returns to his own home. This concept of "bayit" is furthered by the Taz in stating that a son-in-law lights on his own in his in-laws house, even if he is sleeping there, as he is considered to be his own "bayit," his own family unit separate from them.

What about students? The Aruch HaShulchan (O.C. 677:5) cites the Maharil that today students away from home always light for themselves, with the reason being that there is a worry that people may not realize if he is married and is thus relying on his wife. Rav Ovadiah Yoseif (Yechaveh Da'at 6:43) deals with this topic extensively. He first quotes the Machzor Vitri that opposes the Maharil, claiming that guests and students do not have to light for themselves if they know that their wives are lighting for them. He then claims that even though the Bach holds that a person should ideally be standing next to the one who is lighting for them, students may rely on the lighting of their parents done at home, as they are still part of the "bayit," the family unit. However, there is an even stronger reason for students (specifically in Yeshiva) not to light for themselves. He quotes a Shut Ginat Veradim that says that a guest who pays his host a certain sum and relies on him for all of his needs does not have to pay him any further amount specifically for the candles, as that cost is assumed when he pays him his general fee. So too, students who pay a yeshiva tuition that covers all of their needs (i.e. dorm, food, etc.) can rely on the lighting done by the yeshiva. However, there is still a problem. The Rivash claims that the lighting done in synagogues and Batei Medrashot are done purely for the purpose of publicizing the miracle of Chanukah (pirsumei nissa) and not for fulfilling anyone's obligation. As the one who lights does not fulfill his obligation with this lighting, the students may also not fulfill theirs through it. However, the Beit Yoseif sees such a case as comparable to the case of kiddush made in a synagogue (see Chabura on "Kiddush B'makom Se'udah"), where there are those who eat in the synagogue and thus the kiddush does act to fulfill someone's obligation. Here too, as per the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 151:3, based on gemara Megillah 28b) that a Talmid Chacham (or essentially anyone who learns full-time) may eat, drink, and sleep in a Beit Medrash, the Beit Medrash can be seen as in some way being a "residence" of the students and they may fulfill their obligations through the lighting done there, just as guests in a synagogue fulfill their requirement of kiddush with that made after services at night. Rav Yoseif also suggests that students can fulfill their obligation through the lighting of their Rebbeim.

Given all this, should such students light for themselves? May they light for themselves? The main issue at stake is whether or not they may make a blessing on their own lighting, or if such a blessing would be considered to be a bracha l'vatala (a worthless blessing that invokes God's name in vain). Rav Yoseif first cites the Maharil who claims that they should not make a blessing if they light on their own, but there is nothing per se wrong if they do. However, the Beit Yoseif claims that such a blessing would be considered to be a bracha l'vatala and should not be said. Rav Moshe Harari, in Sefer Mikra'ei Kodesh, states that the accepted practice is that Ashkenazim light with a blessing, while Sefardim generally do not light, and if they do, they do so without a blessing. However, if a Sefardi student is in Israel and his parents are elsewhere (or any situation where there is a difference in time), there are those who claim that he should light for himself with a blessing, as his parents are not lighting for him at the moment when he is supposed to light (and may not do so for many hours).

A second issue that we will deal with, albeit in a much briefer fashion, is that of where one should light within his house, and particularly in dorm buildings and apartments. The gemara in Shabbat cited above states that the candles should ideally be placed within a tefach (roughly 3-4 inches) of one's doorway on the outside. If a person lives in a story above ground level, then they should light by a window that faces the main thoroughfare that passes by the house. However, candles placed above twenty amot (roughly 30 feet) do not fulfill the obligation to light, as they lack the ability to publicize the miracle, as people do not look up that high. Tosafot comment that if a person's house has a courtyard, then the candles should be placed not by the entrance way to the house, but by that of the courtyard as that is closer to the public domain.

As far as apartments go, the main question that must be dealt with is to whom are we trying to publicize the miracle? If the main publicizing is for people passing by in the street, then there is a difference of opinion with regard to the law above twenty feet. At a simple level, it seems that a person who lives above such a height should rely on the fact that one fulfills pirsumei nissa among the members of his household as well, and thus should light inside on a table. However, the Aruch HaShulchan (O.C. 671:22) states that there the main problem with candles over 20 feet is if they are placed outside on a chanukiyah that is that high, as people will not look up that high in such a case (similar to the laws mandating the maximum height of the ceiling of a succah). However, if the window of their apartment is at such a height, there is not a problem, as the walls of the building are something that people look at (their eyes can fixate on the wall, unlike by on outdoor chanukiyah, where they have nothing to look at on the lower levels, and thus do not look up beyond twenty amot) and thus they will see the candles. Rav Harari brings down another possibility. If a person has an apartment in a place where there are other apartment buildings of a similar height, then a person may light by his window above twenty amot with the knowledge that his candles will be seen by the people in the apartments across from him. However, he cites Rav Elyashiv who stated that in such a situation there is no publicizing done towards the outside, and one should light inside. Finally, he cites both Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Elyashiv as saying that one who lives on the ground floor of a building should light by the entrance to the courtyard (presumably a lobby would fit this category).

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