Friday, December 18, 2009

basar m'ikara azlinan and neiros chanukah (III)

To wrap up the series on basar m’ikara azlinan (links: part I, part II), we left off with the question posed to R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank: according to the Nimukei Yosef, lighting a fire creates a chiyuv of mazik because we view the damage the fire will cause as if it occurred already from the moment the arsonist struck the match. If so, the second we light Chanukah candles on Erev Shabbos, well before nighttime, it should be considered as if the candles' burning is a fait accompli. How then are we yotzei the mitzvah of hadlakas neiros later in the night if the candles are considered already consumed before dark?

R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank suggests a different pshat in the Nimukei Yosef that answers this question. The Nimukei Yosef did not mean to suggest that the damages caused in the future by a fire or an arrow are considered as if they already occurred the second arrow is shot or the fire is lit. Rather, the Nimukei Yosef meant that even though the damages have not happened, even though the arrow has not yet reached it target or the fire destroyed anything, the archer or the arsonist already becomes liable from the moment the arrow is shot or the fire lit. The chiddush of the Nimukei Yosef has to do with the hischayvus of the gavra, the liability of the individual, not with the cheftza, the assessment of when damages occured to the destroyed object. (This implicitly is counter to the Ketzos we looked at in part II.)

There is no problem with lighting Shabbos candles not because we view the entire burning process as already having occurred at the moment the fire is lit, but rather because we assess liability and responsibility for the lighting at that time, and at that time it is not Shabbos. There is no reason to suggest, based on this approach, that the Chanukah candles are considered burned through at the moment they are lit, well before dark.

Seems to me that you can answer the kasha asked to R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank a little more simply. Even if you assume the candles are considered completely consumed from the moment they are lit, that’s a din, not a metziyus. You can argue that basar m’ikara azlinan means an object dropped from a roof is considered broken the second it is dropped, but that halachic reality does not change the fact that it will hurt if it hits your head. In terms of dinei mamonos, your candles may no longer be considered candles by the time night roles around, but in terms of pirsumei nisa, the fact is you do have lights burning in your window.

And perhaps there is yet another solution. The Rishonim already discuss the question of how to understand the idea of lighting early on Friday: is the zman hadlakah really meant to be after dark, but since that is impossible we light early and just keep the candles burning, or does the zman hadlakah change and get pushed back earlier? If one takes the second position, there is no question to begin with, as lighting on Friday is no different than lighting any other night. So long as you light in the proper time, even if you treat the entire process of burning as occurring at that moment, you fulfill the mitzvah of hadlakah.

Let me end off with a question for thought (these type questions are oneg Shabbos). The gemara (B.K. 26) says that if a living person is pushed off a roof, someone who stabs the falling victim is chayav for murder. Yet, as we learned, since basar m'ikara azlinan, if you smash a falling object on its way down from the roof, you would not be chayav because the object is considered already broken. What's the difference between a falling body and a falling object? If you got the chiddush of R' Tzvi Pesach Frank this is easy, so I'll make it a little more challenging and ask for a second answer that works according to the Ketzos.


  1. Mike S.6:18 PM

    Why the burning in the window? We do not live in a society where an outdoor menorah causes a pogrom? Why not by the door outside?

  2. The Brisker Rav did light outdoors. The Aruch haShulchan seems to say that the wind would just blow out the menorah if left outside, so we do the next best thing and put it in the window, protected from the elements. But even he is working with the assumption, which I think most poskim share, that since there was a sha'as sakanah in the days of Chazal, they were metakein that pirsumei nisa for those indoors suffices. This overrides the original takanah of lighting outdoors.