Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hanukkah candles in hotels

I was recently at a shul for the period between Minhah and Ma'ariv. Instead of giving the usual Mishnah shi'ur, the rabbi opined that you should probably not leave unattended lit Hanukkah candles in hotels. I was dismayed by the quality of the objections that people shouted out. Since I'm not much of a shouter, nobody heard me in the free-for-all. So since I have this widely read blog, I'm going to give my objections to some of the most ridiculous objections here. So blaaaah to them.

An objection: Shabbos candles and Hanukkah candles aren't dangerous.

My objection to this objection: Well, here in West Rogers Park, at the southwest corner of Sacramento and North Shore, is the former home of some friends of ours. They no longer live there because it was burned out by Shabbos candles. Fortunately, nobody was injured in this case. Yep, this stuff happens.

A continuation of the first objection: And since we do it in our homes, why shouldn't we do it in a hotel.

My answer: Because you should be more careful about risking burning down someone else's building than you are about not burning down your own. Because it isn't yours.

Someone in the shul who thinks lighting in a hotel is an OK idea: But the hotel is liable if your candles start a fire. You're not.
An objection to this: Sure they're liable. But they're also liable if you get burned by the hotel's hot water.

Rolling my eyes: I've heard some pretty good bad analogies, and this must be one of the best bad analogies I've ever heard. You see, if the hotel is liable for burning you with its hot water, there's a certain justice because it's their water. But if it's your flame and the hotel is liable, that justice isn't there. And hot water doesn't, you know, spread the way a flame does. Test it and see. On second thought, don't.

And are we even sure the hotel is liable if your fire burns the place down? Isn't there some sort of stupidity clause (they may not call it that) in the fine print in the check-in document?

My final comment: Whatever.