My daughter and I just listened to the podcast about the 3 women’s mitzvot. She was wondering if a widower has an above bat mitzvah age daughter living at home, who is obligated to light the Shabbat candles?
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The obligation of candle-lighting is based on the home. Responsibility for for fulfilling it falls first upon those responsible for the household, since it is fulfilled household by household. Along the lines of Rambam’s explanation here, the wife takes precedence because she is typically more of a ba’alat ha-bayit in this sphere.
In the case of a widower or divorced man, though it would be permissible for a teenage or adult daughter to light for the home, it is customary for him to light the candles, because responsibility for the household is his.
If, however, neither husband nor wife is present, a bat mitzvah age girl takes priority in lighting over her bar mitzva age brothers, for the reasons discussed here.
The question of a student in a dorm is in fact the same for males and for females, and is subject to debate for both. Relevant issues include whether students are considered dependents of their parents, and thus fulfill the obligation through them; whether the entire student body is considered akin to one family, such that one could light candles in a public space for all; and whether students wish to have light on in the dorm room over Shabbat. For more discussion of this issue, see Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilcheta 45:11.
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