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The Systems of the Jewish Year

The Five Lights of Yom Kippur and Besamim in Havdalah

By Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Previously titled “The Well Rested Candle” and “My Old Flame”

There are five sets of candles that one may have to light for Yom Kippur.

1) The regular Yom Tov candles. These are the candles one lights before the onset of any Shabbos or Chag. The custom is to recite the blessing “…Lhadlik Ner Shel Yom Hakippurim” as well as Shecheyanu

2) Many have a custom to light a “yahrtzeit” or memorial candle for relatives who have passed away. These are of the 24 hour variety and are lit, at home before Yom Kippur.

3) There is a custom quoted by the Rema and other Poskim to light a “ner bari”, a candle for the living. This is lit by each married male and is intended to last the entire Yom Kippur. Since it can be interpreted as ominous if your candle goes out, many bring it to Shul and place it among all the other candles so that it will not be apparent which is yours.

4) The Shulchan Aruch writes that we should light many candles in the synagogue on Yom Kippur out of respect for the day.

5) When making Havdala after Yom Kippur one is obligated to use a “ner sheshavas”, light that rested, which requires that one use as their Havdala candle on Motzai Yom Kippur a flame that has been burning from before Yom Kippur.

Why?

The Kol Bo explains that the candle on Motzai Shabbos and the candle on Motzai Yom Kippur are fundamentally different. The Gemara relates that on the very first Saturday Night of creation Hashem showed Adam how to make a fire from two stones. So on Saturday night in commemoration we thank Hashem for the creation of fire by lighting the Havdala candle. It therefore may, and indeed should be, a new flame.

On Yom Kippur we are celebrating the fact that we hadn’t used fire all day. In this way Yom Kippur is different from all other Jewish holidays, on which the use of fire is permitted. So it is therefore appropriate to use a flame that had ‘rested’ all day. It had been burning before Yom Kippur, had not been used over the holiday, and had now become permitted once again.

What if Yom Kippur is on Shabbos? The Poskim write that we may use a new flame because of the Shabbos aspect, however the recommended practice is to use an existing flame then as well in order to fulfill both reasons.

But why can’t I just use candle 2, 3, or 4?

A candle that was lit in honor of Yom Kippur or some other reason, and not for the benefit of light, is a subject of dispute in Halacha. Ordinarily the candle used for Havdalah must be lit in order to have benefit from it and not for some other purpose. A candle that is lit for respect, memory or as a ‘ner bari’ are lit for reasons other than giving light. It is therefore recommended practice is to use a candle that was lit before Yom Kippur specifically for light after Yom Kippur, and not in honor of Yom Kippur. [If you add some olive oil to the regular 24 hour candles it’ll burn for considerably longer and ensure that you’ll have an available flame].

If one only has a flame that was lit for a reason other than light benefit they should light a candle from that, and then make the beracha on both together. This works because the original candle has rested, and the new candle was lit for light. Rav Moshe Feinstein and others indicate that the two candles don’t need to be held together, you can just use the second candle. For this purpose a pilot light is sufficient as well.

In the event that one cannot find a flame that had been burning from before Yom Kippur the Shulchan Aruch brings an opinion that you can light a new fire and then light a fire from that fire. However the Mishna Berura disagrees and writes that one should not make a beracha on such a flame.

If even that is not available then one should definitely not use a flame for Havdala and if one does then it constitutes an interruption between the Hagafen blessing on wine and the drinking of the wine and another Hagafen must be recited.

Teshuvos VHanhagos (Rav Moshe Sternbuch) writes that according to the poskim that one can use an incandescent bulb for Havdala one could use a light that was on from before Yom Kippur as a Ner Sheshavas as well. 

As discussed, when Yom Kippur is on Shabbos, although it is still preferred to use an existing flame one may make a blessing on a new flame as well.

Do you use besamim (spices) for Havdala on Yom Kippur that falls on Shabbos? The Shulchan Aruch says no, since the besamim are used to supplant the loss of the departing extra neshama for Shabbos, and that neshama is dependent on food, when we fast on Shabbos then there is no neshama yeseira.

However the Mishna Berura writes that the widely accepted custom amongst Ashkenazim is to use Besamim on Motzai Yom Kippur, and indeed that is the minhag in Ashkenazi communities today, in Sephardic communities they do not.

Gmar Chatima Tova

cross posted to the LINK blog

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