Greetings. I am somewhat confused on the issue of the candle. The Yerushalmi tells us in a mishna that the bracha on the candle can only be done IF a person has benefit, and yet the Bavli in Pesachim describes the reason for the bracha itself. If these are two separate issues, then it would seem that if a person has no benefit davka from lighting a candle on motzei shabbos he does not light it. So that would seem to imply that in fact today when we are surrounded by electrical lights, the candle provides no special benefit.
Yet the reason for the bracha itself has nothing to do with fire, but with the original light of Bereshis. There seems to be something of a contradiction here, because one would think that lighting the candle has nothing to do with personal benefit at all, but with the fact of the creation of light.
One other issue is why women who light the havdalah candle don't say baruch hamavdil before they strike the match for the havdalah candle? Of course even this is a moot point if we acknowledge that today there is no need to make a bracha on the candle based on the mishna altogether. Thanks.
David Goldman, USA
You are right that there are two different matters involved here. The Mishnah in Berachos seems to state that one must benefit from the light in order to make a Berachah on it, but the Gemara there (Berachos 53b) cites a dispute whether one needs to actually benefit from the fire or it suffices to be close enough to it such that one could benefit from it if he wanted to, but he doesn't actually have to benefit from it. Most Poskim follow the second approach, and therefore one would not need to actually benefit from the fire. What, then, is the reason for the Berachah? Some Acharonim maintain that the Berachah is a praise to G-d for having created fire which is such a vital part of our lives. Since fire was created on Motza'i Shabbos, this is the time that Chazal institued for us to make a Berachah.
However, there are some Poskim who maintain that one still should benefit from the fire, and this is why people put their hands near the fire and look at their fingernails. The reason one makes the Berachah only on Motza'i Shabbos and not every day according to this opinion is that on Shabbos one was not allowed to create fire, and therefore this is a new benefit which warrants a blessing.
Those who say that one should benefit turn off the electric lights before Havdalah, while those who maintain that one only theoretically needs to benefit would not require turning off the lights.
However, it is true that we benefit from electric light as well, and it is also a form of fire, and therefore some Gedolim (Rav Chaim of Brisk, and Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski) made the Berachah on electricity even though they could have lit a fire. However, it is possible that they wanted to demonstrate that electricity is fire, since this was not yet accepted by all opinions.
I don't know where you saw that women don't say Baruch ha'Mavdil, since the Rema clearly says (in Orach Chayim 299:10) that women should say it even though they don't say Havdalah for themselves.
Thank you. It would seem from the idea of shutting off the lights that in times before electricity one would have theoretically had to extinguish any fire providing enough light to make the benefit of the candle unnecessary. However, it is illogical that Jews would have bothered to do that, and of course unlikely that there would still have been any other fires in the home by Motsei Shabbos.
However, it still seems to be the case that today with electric lights there is no new benefit from the candle (i.e. distinguishing the pundyon from the sela with prints of animals), and had Chazal been only concerned with a shvach for creating new fire after Shabbos the mention of benefit would have been unnecessary and irrelevant. Thus one can make a strong case that lighting the candle today is not necessary.
Regarding the very idea of making Havdalah on electric lights, one would have to ask whether this shita holds it is acceptable to have Chanukah lights that are electric instead of wicks since electricity is considered fire. (Of course all the confusion about electricity as fire touches on the matter of whether using electricity is a melacha on Shabbos altogether, especially since no consensus exists about this as pointed out by Rabbi SZ Auerbach).
Finally, couldn't it also be argued that since in the gemara in Berachos Rav Zeira says he does not search for a candle fire if he doesn't have one in a time when no electricity existed, so certainly one would not have to light a candle today when we receive illumination constantly from electricity and therefore no special benefit is derived from lighting a candle at all, since the gemara states later in 53b that Rav held the fire must be actually utilized.
It's unlikely as you say that any fire lasted 25 hours, so the candle in the time of Chazal indeed would have indeed benefited the participants. Nevertheless, there is a discussion in Halachah about Shul candles and Yahrzeit candles which were lit for a Mitzvah and cannot be used for Havdalah even when they provide light (Bi'ur Halachah 298:11) as well, so the candle may not have been needed but is still ritually obligated even when other light exists.
For a number of reasons, it would seem that a candle is obligatory. (See Or l'Tzion 2:22:5, Me'orei Esh, ch. 5, Yabi'a Omer 1:17-18, Har Tzvi 2:114, Yerushas ha'Pleitah 6-7, Maharshag 2:107.)
1) Havdalah requires a Shalheves and Gacheles which burn and create ash, unlike electricity.
2) Electricity continues uninterrupted from the power station and therefore is not considered to be the act of the person lighting it.
3) Electricity has one color, while fire has a number of colors.
4) Electricity is inside glass, and the Shulchan Aruch says that one should not make a Berachah on it. Even though the Magen Avraham disagrees, it is preferable not to use fire inside a glass.
Chanukah candles also cannot be electricity. Since there is no wick and oil, there is no commemoration of the original miracle in electricity. (See above sources, and Tzitz Eliezer 1:20:12, Be'er Moshe 6:58-59.)
Rebbi Zeira did not search for fire, but he maintained the view of Rav Yehudah that one does not need to benefit from fire, but Rava -- who does not hold like Rebbi Zeira -- requires benefit from fire, so electricity will not work according to either of them: Rebbi Zeira, because there are other reasons for the blessing on fire, and Rava, because the above reasons require one to benefit from fire and not from other items.
I am sorry if I wasn't clear. I didn't mean that electricity should replace a candle for Havdalah (as the Brisker Rav and R. Chaim Grodzensky did hold it could) but simply that really no candle is actually required anymore according to Talmudic law.
On the other hand, those who hold that electricity is forbidden on Shabbos assume it without realizing that for over 100 years there has been no consensus on its prohibition either as fire or as a melacha of molid and boneh (of actions not visible to the eye). A full re-examination of the subject is warranted, but I am sure that no rabbis will want to undertake it even now in the age of Wifi, laser, electronics, etc.
Regarding R. Zeira, all I meant was that whereas he did not hold it was necessary to search for a candle in an age when the only source of actual illumination was fire, then kol sheken today when fire is not our source of illumination.