Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Laws of Hanukkah
To dedicate this lesson
At the Shabbat Table

Night Light

A guy who came home late and the only one who could wake up was none other than his father.


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Kislev 24 5780
The bus wound around the streets of Shlomo’s city, as he shifted in his seat. It had taken hours to get home from his army base, and he was eager to get off the bus, already. He had requested permission to go home in the morning, but his commander had only allowed him to leave in the afternoon. As the bus reached Shlomo’s stop, he gathered his belongings, thanked the driver, and eagerly ran toward his house.
Shlomo’s footsteps echoed against the stillness of the night, as he neared his house. He glanced at his parents’ menorah, lovingly placed in a glass box near the front door of the house. Had the lights burned out already? Shlomo looked at his watch. 12:30? How could it be so late? Shlomo hurriedly knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Right. His mother had gone out of town for a family Chanuka party, and had slept over at her brother’s house. His father was probably sleeping, by now. Shomo let himself inside, and set his bag down on the floor.
Shlomo took out his own menorah, and began preparing the wicks, when he had a startling realization. How could he light the menorah when there was no one around to see it? No one was walking around outside at this hour, and no one was awake in the house, either. Shlomo thought for a moment. He could wake up his father! After all, Mishna Berurah ( תִּרְעַב )states clearly that if a person comes home late at night, sometime before dawn, it is proper to wake up a member of his household, so that he will be able to light properly, with a bracha.
Shlomo walked toward his father’s room, as another thought struck him. Was it really proper to wake up his father, so that Shlomo could light Chanuka candles? What about kibud av v’eim (honoring one’s parents)? Maybe his father preferred to remain sleeping. On the other hand, maybe his father would like to be woken up, to help his son do the mitzva of lighting Chanuka candles.
What should Shlomo do? Is it better for Shlomo to wake up his father, so that Shlomo will be able to light Chanuka candles, or should Shlomo let his father sleep, and lose out on lighting?
Answer of Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzal shlita:
Shlomo must make a decision based on his knowledge of his father. If Shlomo feels that his father will be upset if Shlomo wakes him up, then Shlomo should let his father sleep. However, if Shlomo knows that his father will be happy to be woken up, then Shlomo should wake him. (See Sefer Chasidim 337)
There is a well-known story in the Gemara (Kiddushin 35) regarding a non-Jew by the name of Dama ben Netina. Dama was approached by Jewish sages, who requested to purchase a precious stone from Dama, for use in the breast plate of the Kohen Gadol. Dama could have profited greatly from this sale, however, he gave up the opportunity to sell the stone, because, in order to do so, he would have had to wake up his father. The sages praised Dama for this act. The story seems unusual, because, ostensibly, one would think that Dama’s father would rather have been woken, so that the sale could have taken place. Obviously, Dama knew his father well, and understood that his father would prefer to remain asleep, rather than allow his son to make the sale.
In summary: If Shlomo thinks that his father will be happy to be woken, in order to allow his son to perform the mitzva of lighting the Chanuka candles, then Shomo should wake his father. If Shlomo thinks that his father will be upset if he is woken up, then Shlomo should let him sleep.

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