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Dec 5, 2023

Interesting Psak: lighting Hanukkah candles in Gaza

I have seen a couple of interesting questions come up from the battlefield with Hanukkah approaching while at war.. here is one of them...

A question presented to Rav Yitzchak Zilbershtein, rav of Ramat Elchnonon neighborhood of Bnei Braq, is if soldiers in Gaza need to or should light Hanukkah candles. Some of them even take over houses of Gazans as they clear the area of terrorists - they then sleep in these houses while using them as bases as they prepare to advance to the next area.

Rav Zilbershtein said that soldiers in Gaza, not knowing at any time if and when and from where a terrorist might come crawling out of a hole, are exempt from the obligation to light Hanukkah candles. Even if they are located in a Gazan house at any given time, that is not called living in a house - the soldier might sleep there but that isn't sleep, the soldier is constantly on the watch for terrorists, sleeping with one eye open, scared and busy with war. Every moment there is a danger to his life.

Hanukkah candles were meant for praising God and thanking Him for the miracles but while in gaza one is not in a situation for praise and thanks but is in constant danger and fear, davening to remain safe and alive. 

Rav Zilbershtein says if one really wants to, a soldier can light Hanukkah candles while in Gaza at war, but only without a bracha.
source: Hamechadesh

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  1. Usually you share links for these interesting psakim. Is there a link for this one?

    1. coming soon. there is a reason I didnt yet include the link

  2. I don't know Rav Zilbershtein or his general approach to Halacha, and I haven't read the Psak inside, but there seems to be another element to the question which seems to be missing from his answer.

    In addition to the dry Halachic question, these soldiers are expressing a desire to perform Miztvot, which gives them comfort, and helps them focus on the spiritual elements in their sacred task of protecting the Nation and Land of Israel. Telling them that they are exempt from a specific Mitzva ignores the essence of the question which is not "Do I need to do this Mitzva?", but "I have desire to perform this Mitzva, which will help to remind me of the importance of my role as a soldier defending Eretz Yisrael, how can I perform this mitzva in the best possible way".

    It looks like he is giving a heter not to do a Mitzva, when he should be looking for Halachic ways to allow them to do the Mitzva (For example, if they have designated a room in the place they are staying as a temporary Beit Knesset, maybe they should light there)

    1. he is saying there is no obligation int heis situation. if they want to, they can do it without a bracha because there is no chiyuv. I dont think he is giving a hetter to not do a mitzva and cant find a way for them to do it. There are definitely ways they could like a menora, but he is saying in their situation there is no obligation to do so.

    2. Maybe, or maybe they're just trying to assess what their obligation is, the same way someone who was traveling for work might ask the exact same question. Not everything that might potentially be an expression of a grandiose spiritual desire actually reflects an actual grandiose spiritual desire. Sometimes people turn to poskim to find out what the halacha is.


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