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Multi-bulb flashlight for Bedikat Chametz

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Rabbi David Sperling

Nisan 24, 5772
Question
If using a flashlight for bidikat chameitz (e.g. for places where it would be dangerous to use a candle), is it OK to use a flashlight has several small LED bulbs instead of a single regular light-bulb. Do the multiple bulbs have the status of a multi-wick torch? Or is the fact that there is a single ray of light sufficient?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for such an interesting question. Of course, as these type of flashlights are so new there is no reference to them in the halachic literature. So we must attempt to compare them to some halachic source. The Mishna Brurah (433, 12) comments on the words of the Rema that forbids using two candles that are woven together, because they have the status of a torch. He writes "and even a candle that has two wicks, such as the candles that are sometimes made nowadays of fat, where there is a space between the wicks, it is considered a [forbidden] torch". Based on this it seems to me that a flashlight that is made up of several small bulbs should be forbidden. If though the bulbs are so small as to appear to the eye as one light, then it would be like having several wicks so close together that there was no space between them, and it would be permitted (I am not aware that they make flashlights in such a fashion, but if they ever did they would be permitted). Though after reviewing the Gemara which is the source of this law (Pessachim 8a) , it seems that one should be lenient and allow this type of flashlight even if it is made up of several small bulbs, as long as it gives of a single ray of light. This is because the reasons given for not using a torch are that it's light is too big, and does not allow it to enter into the cracks and crevices or because one is scared that such a large flame may cause a fire. (There are other reasons given in the gemara, but these two are the ones quoted in the halachic literature). Being that this type of flashlight gives off a single directed ray of light - as opposed to say a neon-strip emergency light - and that there is no fear of a fire with it, one does not have to worry that it is in fact made up of several small bulbs. (I heard this from HaRav Y.H. Henkin shlitah). Blessings. Blessings.
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