Electric Lights for Shabbos and Chanukah
Can a woman be yotzei with a flashlight for candle-lighting on Shabbos and on Chanukah?
Many poskim write that electric lights cannot be used for Chanukah candles. The reason for this is that the mitzvah is specifically to light with oil (or wax) and a wick, as the lights of the Menorah (see Har Tzvi, Orach Chaim 2:114). An additional reason is that this is not considered as a person lighting the candle, and that the light is considered an avukah (see also Yabia Omer 3:35).
Only under very extenuating circumstances, such as a soldier who has nothing else to light with, should Chanukah candles be lit with electric lights (see Kuntres on the laws of Chanukah from Rav Shlomo Zalman zt”l).
For Shabbos candles, however, many agree that electric lights are fine (including the Beis Yitzchak, Rabbi Aharon Kotler, and others; see Yecheveh Daas 4:38). Yet, some are stringent, as mentioned in Melamed Leho’il (1:46) and others, one of the reasons being that turning on the switch is not considered an act of lighting.
Even those who permit electric lighting do so on a bedieved level, and lechatchilah one should light candles, which are clearly for the honor of Shabbos.