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The Proper Time for Lighting

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The Shabbat candles should be lit before sunset, but no more than 1¼ hours1 before sunset (also known as plag haminchah).2 It's never wise to procrastinate until the last moment, so it is customary to light the candles no later than eighteen minutes before sunset.3 (Others have the custom to light twenty-three minutes prior to sunset.4) To find out the candle-lighting time (i.e., eighteen minutes before sunset) or plag haminchah for any date and for any location in the world—click here.

Women should pray the afternoon prayers prior to lighting the candles. If one is pressed for time, the candles should be lit with the intention of not accepting Shabbat until after the prayers—which should be recited immediately after the lighting.5

It is customary to light the candles while clad in Shabbat finery.6

With the lighting of the candles, the kindler is effectively ushering in the Shabbat. As soon as all the candles are lit, even before the blessing is recited, all forms of work are prohibited.7

If a woman makes a condition, even if she has not verbally expressed the condition, that she is not accepting the Shabbat with the lighting of the candles, she is permitted to continue working until approximately ten minutes after she lit the candles. This is especially useful when one is lighting candles at home and then needs to drive to the synagogue. This condition should only be used in times of need; ideally, Shabbat should be accepted immediately with the lighting of the Shabbat candles (otherwise it isn't readily evident that the candles are lit solely in honor of Shabbat).8

If one has, G‑d forbid, forgotten to kindle the Shabbat candles before sunset, within the first fifteen minutes a non-Jew should be requested to light one candle. The Jew then covers her (or his) eyes and recites the blessing with a slight variation:

Baruch a-ta A-doi-nay Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam a-sher ki-dee-sha-nu bi-mitz-vo-tav vi-tzi-va-noo al had-la-kat ha-ner.9

("Blessed are you, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us regarding the kindling of the candle.")

This only applies for the first fifteen minutes after sunset. After that time has elapsed, one is not allowed to ask a non-Jew to light a candle.10

Footnotes
1.

Hours referenced here are not necessarily 60 minutes; rather they are "proportional hours" that depend on the season. We take the day, from sunrise until sunset, and divide it into twelve equal parts. Each part constitutes one hour according to Jewish law. In the summer this can be up to 75 minutes and in the winter it can be as little as 45 minutes.

2.

Badei HaShulchan 74:25.

3.

Responsa Mahari Shteif siman 1; Likutei Sichot vol. 16 pg. 577.

4.

Likutei Dinim (Kehot 1955) pg. 27 fn. *2.

5.

Shulchan Aruch HaRav, ibid. 7.

6.

Badei HaShulchan 74:10.

7.

Shulchan Aruch HaRav, ibid.

8.

Ibid.

9.

Ibid., 11.

10.

Ibid.

By Chabad.org Staff
This article is compiled from various sources, including from Candle Lighting For Shabbos and YomTov by Nissan Dovid Dubov (Kehot).
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Douglas Eivind Hall October 8, 2007

Candle Lighting Thank you for explaining the lighting of the candles 18 minutes before the beginning of Shabbat. Reply

Welcome to our candle-lighting section, where you will find the details and practicalities of lighting Shabbat candles, along with the meaning, spirituality and power of doing so . . .
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