Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Candle Lighting for Yom Kippur

As with all holidays, we light candles at the onset of Yom Kippur. Because Yom Kippur this year falls out on Shabbos, when reciting the brachah add in the additional words for Shabbos. Yet, particularly in our shul where most women come to shul on Yom Kippur eve, women must be especially careful when lighting to follow the halachah carefully.

Candle Lighting before Shabbos
Normally, when women light candles on Shabbos, they automatically accept the sanctity of Shabbos upon themselves immediately upon reciting the brachah. This is the reason why women first light the candles and then recite the brachah afterwards. If she recited the brachah (and accepted Shabbos) and then lit the candles, she would inadvertently be violating the Shabbos! But what if a woman wants to light candles a little early but still has some work she needs to take care of after lighting? Normally, it's not a good idea to do this, and it's much better to finish the work and then light the candles. But what if she wants to light candles and then ride to shul Friday night? If she accepts Shabbos when reciting the brachah, she wouldn't be able to get into the car. What should she do?
Many poskim permit a woman to light candles on condition that when she lights, she does not accept the Shabbos upon herself. But to do this, she must verbally state that she does not accept the Shabbos when she lights.

Candle Lighting before Yom Kippur
Unfortunately, making this verbal condition before lighting candles does not work on Yom Tov for a very simple reason: the brachot include the brachah of she'hechiyanu. When a person recites this brachah, he implicitly acknowledges the sanctity of the day, and may not perform any prohibited work afterwards. So what then should a woman who wants to light at home and then drive to shul before Yom Kippur do?
  1. She should verbally state that she does not accept the sanctity of Yom Kippur upon herself when she lights candles and recites the brachah.
  2. She should light candles normally, but recite only the first brachah on the candle lighting, and she should not recite the she'hechiyanu at home.
  3. When she comes to shul, she should recite the she'hechiyanu together with the shul at the proper time. (In addition, a woman who lit normally and accepted the sanctity of Yom Kippur when she lit and walked to shul should not recite the she'hecheyanu in shul, as she has already said that brachah at home.)
I'd like to make one other obvious but important point: Erev Yom Kippur is a very, very busy time, and it's a struggle to eat the meal, give the kids their blessings, do kaparos, and all the other things we need to do and still make it to shul on time. Yet, with candle lighting at 7:14pm (one may light before 7:14pm -- any time after 6:16pm) and Kol Nidrei at 7:20pm, it's very important that every person take special care to arrive at shul with enough time to park, put away any muktzeh items and conclude any prohibited activity before sunset, at 7:32pm. It would be a terrible shame to begin the holiest day of the year by unintentionally violating the sanctity of the holiday.
If we make an extra effort to maintain the kedushah -- the holiness of Yom Kippur, we can then stand before God with the feeling of hope that He will bless us and inscribe us all with a year of health, blessing and prosperity.