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    Homeless and Chanukah

    One could kler if someone does not own a house and is literally homeless, does he have a chiyuv to light the Menorah? Maybe the chiyuv only applies to a person who has a roof over his head?

    The Shailos Utshuvos Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah III (14) writes about a person who has no house to sleep in and sleeps in the street, for instance someone who is stuck travelling in the desert and has no one at home to light on his behalf. It would seem, based on Rashi in Shabbos 23b that says the reason Chazal established a bracha of “Horoeh” for neiros Chanukah is in the event a person is on a boat so he can’t light; when he sees candles in the distance he makes the bracha of “Horoeh.” The Taz (670:3) says that a person makes the bracha of “Horoeh” only if nobody will end up lighting that night in his house at all. It would seem from this Taz that one who is outside and has no house would be exempt from lighting the Menorah.

    Reb Elyashiv was asked if a person has no home, what should he do for Chanukah Licht? Reb Elyashiv responded that he would have a chiyuv to rent a house in order to be able to light the Menorah.

    Reb Chaim Kanievsky explains that Reb Elyashiv’s psak is based the Rambam in Hilchos Brochos (11:2,3) where the Rambam differentiates between mitzvos a person has to do like tefillin, sukka, lulav and the like and the mitzvos that a person only needs to do in certain circumstances like mezuzah and maakeh. If somebody never owns a home he would be exempt. The Rambam adds that the same difference would apply to mitzvos deRabbonon; some are chova; like megilah, lighting Shabbos licht and Chanuka Licht. Then there are non-chova; like eiruv and netilas yodayim where one is only chayev if the opportunity presents itself. From this Rambam we see that a person has a requirement to get a home so he can light the Menorah.

    Conversely, we see Tosfos Sukka (46a) explains why Chazal established the bracha of Horoeh davka for Chanukah. It is because the miracle was so beloved to us and not everyone has the opportunity to light because they may not own or rent homes; therefore, Chazal gave another option of making the bracha of Horoeh.

    The question arises concerning a person who is travelling via train overnight and is paying for his room and board on the train. Is that a place one can light the Menorah? The Maharshdam (4:146) says you would be required to light since when Rashi says a person is not required to light on a boat, it is because the boats did not have a roof so it is not considered a bayis. In contrast, a train would be considered a bayis despite the fact that it moves. The Aruch Hashulchan in Orach Chaim, Hilchos Chanukah (677) says if a person will not get home until the next morning, he should light on the train if possible. The Tzitz Eliezer (15:29) argues with the Aruch Hashulchan and Maharashdam and says that the chiyuv is on the person to light in the place where he eats and sleeps; and even if there is no roof above his head, he would be required to light. Rashi is saying you don’t light on a boat in a case where the person does not have candles or they do not allow him to light on the boat. The same would apply on a train; if they do not allow it because of danger, one would be exempt.

    May we all be zocheh to light the candles in the right place and be zocheh to see the lights of the Menorah of the Bais Hamikdosh!