Today’s daf deals with two interesting and important areas of Jewish Law:-
1. When are we supposed to light Shabbat candles; and
2. If we only have enough money for Kiddush wine or Hanukkah candles which takes precedence?
I have therefore decided to deal with these in two separate posts.
The Talmud tells us that the wife of Rav Yosef used to light the Shabbat candles late. Rav Yosef pointed out that it is “proper etiquette” (Rashi) to light while it is still day.
How could the wife of Rav Yosef light the Shabbat candles late? Did she not know the explicit Torah prohibition against lighting a fire on Shabbat? Furthermore, if she was desecrating the Shabbat, why did Rav Yosef reprimand her with a metaphor instructing proper etiquette, and not with the explicit verse in the Torah that commands us to observe the Shabbat?
The Ran explains that Rav Yosef’s wife certainly lit the candles before sundown and was not desecrating the Shabbat. However, she thought that although there is a Mitzvah to add to the Shabbat from the weekday (“Tosefet Shabbat”), that Mitzvah does not apply to lighting the Shabbat candles, and the Shabbat candles may be lit after Tosefet Shabbat, before sundown. Her reasoning was that Tosefet Shabbat applies only to the prohibition of melachah (that is, one should cease from performing Melachah some time before sundown), but not to a melachah that involves a hallowed act of a mitzvah (lighting the Shabbat candles). Rav Yosef therefore informed her that it is proper to observe Tosefet Shabbat with the lighting of the Shabbat candles as well.
The Talmud continues and relates that after Rav Yosef told her that she should light the candles earlier, she wanted to light them very early. A certain elder told her that she should not light the candles too early, but rather after she ceases doing the other melachot she should light the candles in order for the lighting of the Shabbat candles to be the last melachah that she does before Shabbat.
It is worth pointing out that we have the custom of lighting shabbat candles 18 minutes before sundown in order to fulfil the mitzvah of Tosefet Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch – Orach Chaim, 261:1-4).