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Is the obligation of lighting a Menorah an obligation that the person should light (chovas gavra), or that there should be a Menorah burning at his front door (chovas cheftza)?

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    Nitpicking in your terminology: All obligations are on the person. Objects have no obligations, prohibitions or responsibilities. Can you clarify the question? – chortkov2 Dec 28 '19 at 17:20
  • כבתה אין זקוק לה – kouty Dec 28 '19 at 18:50
  • A person with no place to sleep is not required to light. For example a person in the middle of traveling at the time of lighting. – sabbahillel Dec 30 '19 at 1:22
  • judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/110571/… if only they had known from the outset what you meant to ask – Double AA Jan 1 at 4:17
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In order to answer, it is important to clarify the question. Although it is obvious the Torah only obligates people (objects can have no obligations or restrictions), the question is about the exact classification of the obligation:

Is the mitzva a chovas gavra - [which I will define as] an obligation which is not bound to specific circumstances (similar to matzah and tefillin, where a person is obligated to perform a specific action regardless of circumstances), or a choivas bayis [which I defina as] an obligation which is dependant on having a house (similar to tzitzis [where the gavra is only obligated to place them on a garment which is eligible], or ma'akeh [where the gavra is only obligated to build a fence if he has a roof which requires it]).

It is clear from the Rambam (Berachos 11:3) that it is a chovas gavra. The Rambam writes (11:1):

יש מצות עשה שאדם חייב להשתדל ולרדוף עד שיעשה אותה כגון תפילין וסוכה ולולב ושופר ואלו הן הנקראין חובה לפי שאדם חייב על כל פנים לעשות ויש מצוה שאינה חובה אלא דומין לרשות כגון מזוזה ומעקה שאין אדם חייב לשכון בבית החייב מזוזה כדי שיעשה מזוזה אלא אם רצה לשכון כל ימיו באהל או בספינה ישב וכן אינו חייב לבנות בית כדי לעשות מעקה

The Rambam distinguishes between two types of Mitzva - one where the person is obligated to perform regardless of circumstance, and there are some where the circumstances cause the obligation. The Rambam continues to apply this distinction to mitzvos d'rabbanan:

וכן כל המצות שהן מדברי סופרים בין מצוה שהיא חובה מדבריהם כגון מקרא מגילה והדלקת נר בשבת והדלקת נר חנוכה בין מצות שאינן חובה כגון עירוב ונטילת ידים מברך על הכל קודם לעשייתן אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו לעשות והיכן צונו בתורה שכתוב בה אשר יאמרו לך תעשה נמצא ענין הדברים והצען כך הוא אשר קדשנו במצותיו שציוה בהן לשמוע מאלו שצונו להדליק נר של חנוכה או לקרות את המגילה וכן שאר כל המצות שמדברי סופרים.

It is clear from the Rambam that he places ner chanuka in the first category.


Note: This is not to say that the obligation is not intrinsically linked with a house. Although the chiyuv is not dependent on circumstance, the kiyum is. Just like tefillin is a chovas gavra which requires the use of a cheftza - the tefillin - to fulfill the obligation, so does ner chanukah require a house. Every Jew is obligated to light a Menorah in his house on Chanuka.

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Defining chovas gavra as an obligation on the person to light a candle (potentially only at the person's own doorway - similar to tefilin requiring the person's own arm), and chovas object/cheftza as an obligation on the person to ensure that his doorway has a candle lit, along the lines of mezuza and ma'akeh.

It is clear from Shabbos 23a that it is an obligation on the person (or possibly the household group) but certainly not a classic chovas cheftza on the "house" itself.

אמר רב ששת אכסנאי חייב בנר חנוכה אמר רבי זירא מריש כי הוינא בי רב משתתפנא בפריטי

Rav Sheshet said: A guest is obligated in lighting the Hanukkah light in the place where he is being hosted. The Gemara relates that Rabbi Zeira said: At first, when I was studying in the yeshiva, I would participate with perutot, copper coins, together with the host [ushpiza], so that I would be a partner in the light that he kindled.

The obligation of a guest to light, or at the very least financially participate in the host's lighting, can only be understood if the obligation is on the person to light (and as he is only a guest is not included in the exemption of ner ish ubeiso).

If it is a matter of the house needing a candle lit (chovas cheftza), this cannot obligate the guest, as the host has already lit his own candle in the doorway, and the guest can rely on that just as he relies on his host's mezuza.

  • @chortkov2 Those Rabbis can argue their way out of anything ;). But still - if it's not his house how can he light himself there (he certainly doesn't have to be משתתף)? – AKA Dec 29 '19 at 11:33
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    @chortkov2 BTW - it's good we've defined terms in our answers - I think your chovas cheftza is different to mine! – AKA Dec 29 '19 at 11:34
  • @chortkov2 But he can light for himself there! He's able to be משתתף, but I don't know of anyone who says he can't just do it himself. – AKA Dec 29 '19 at 15:41
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – AKA Dec 29 '19 at 15:42

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