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Is It Permissible To Move Shabbat Candles, Even If One Has Not Yet Accepted Shabbat

When a woman lights the Shabbat candles on Friday afternoon, the candles and candlesticks obtain the status of "Muktzeh" and may not be moved or even touched throughout Shabbat. Even after the candles extinguish, one may not move or touch the candlesticks until after Shabbat.

An interesting question arises in a case where a woman lights the Shabbat candles with the intention not to accept the onset of Shabbat. In certain situations, a woman might have to drive somewhere before Shabbat and will not return home in time to light the Shabbat candles before Shabbat begins. It is permissible in such a case for the woman to light the Shabbat candles before she leaves home, on the condition that she does not yet accept upon herself the onset of Shabbat. She may then drive and perform regular weekday activities and accept Shabbat later, at some point before sundown. If a woman lights candles without accepting Shabbat, and she then decides to move the candles to a different location before Shabbat begins, is it permissible for her to do so, or do the candles become "Muktzeh" despite the fact that Shabbat has yet to begin?

The Bet Yosef (commentary to the Tur by "the Mehaber," Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulhan Aruch), in Siman 263, comments that he sees no reason to forbid moving the Shabbat candles if one has yet to accept Shabbat. Since the prohibition of "Muktzeh" takes effect only with the onset of Shabbat, so long as a woman has yet to accept Shabbat she may move the candles. Just as she may perform any Melacha (activity forbidden on Shabbat) before she accepts Shabbat, so may she move the candlesticks until she begins Shabbat.

However, in direct contrast to this remark, in the Shulhan Aruch the Mehaber (263:14) rules stringently on this issue, and forbids moving the Shabbat candles even before one has accepted the onset of Shabbat. Despite the seeming discrepancy between his comments in the Bet Yosef and Shulhan Aruch, this ruling has been accepted as authoritative by several later authorities, including the Peri Megadim (work of Halacha by Rabbi Yosef Teomim1727-1792), the Ben Ish Hai (Rabbi Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) in Parashat Noach, Halacha 13, and Hacham Ovadia Yosef in Halichot Olam, Helek 3, page 45. Thus, it is forbidden to move or even touch the Shabbat candles even before one has accepted Shabbat.

Summary: Once a woman has lit the Shabbat candles, they may not be moved or touched from that point until after Shabbat, even after the fire extinguishes, even if she made a condition not to accept Shabbat with the lighting.


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