Contact Us

Do Young Girls Light Shabbat and Holiday Candles?

Do Young Girls Light Shabbat and Holiday Candles?

 Email

Question:

The rabbi in my synagogue tells me that my daughter should begin lighting Shabbat and holiday candles when she can say the blessing on her own. When I told this to my very traditional grandmother, she told me that the custom is that girls do not light candles until they are married. Can you please enlighten me?

Answer:

In Genesis we read the story of Abraham, following the passing of his wife Sarah, sending his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac, his son. During Sarah's lifetime, she would kindle the candles on the eve of Shabbat, and our Sages say that they miraculously continued to burn until the next Shabbat.

Eliezer found Rebecca, a relative of Abraham, and he brought her to Isaac. The verse1 describes Isaac bringing her to his mother's tent, and our Sages say that when Isaac brought her into his mother's tent, he found that the candles that she lit on the eve of Shabbat lasted an entire week, too.

"And he took Rebecca into the tent of his mother Sarah"—and she lit the Shabbat candles, and only then—"she became his wife." This indicates that she lit the candles even prior to her marriage.

We find records indicating that young girls would light the Shabbat and holiday candles as recently as several generations ago. We also find that many rabbinic families have continued to keep this custom.2

It was only during the World Wars that the custom of young girls lighting candles stopped being observed. At that time candles became scarce, and even the heads of households could not easily obtain candles. Therefore the custom of young girls lighting candles was forgotten.

In today's day and age, this is no longer an issue. The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, encouraged all Jewish girls to light their own Shabbat and holiday candles with the consent of their parents.

Until marriage, girls light one candle. And the Rebbe encouraged parents to purchase a special candlestick just for the girl.

Girls should light their candle first, before their mothers. Their mother should be present to assist as needed, and to supervise the lighting so the child doesn't, G‑d forbid, cause a fire. (After the mother lights her own candles, it would be forbidden for her to handle fire or its accessories.)

Normally, when doing a mitzvah for the first time, the Shehecheyanu, a special blessing commemorating joyful events and dates, is recited. Since it's not clear-cut whether this rule applies to the first time a girl lights Shabbat candles, the Rebbe advised that a young girl light candles for the first time on a holiday, when the Shehecheyanu is anyways recited after the candle-lighting blessing. Alternatively, the girl should wear a new item of clothing so she can make the blessing on that, while keeping the lighting of the candle in mind.

In conclusion, you can rest assured that the lighting of the Shabbat and holiday candles by young girls is an age-old custom. Perhaps you can also tell your grandmother that in this day and age, with so many negative forces pulling on our children, one more good deed will only help dispel the darkness.

Wishing you much nachat from your daughter,

Chana Raizel Zaklikowski

P.S. A girl under the age of bat mitzvah lights a candle primarily for educational purposes—and the adult members of the household do not fulfill their obligation of Shabbat candles through her candle. The mother should continue to light her own candles, or, if the mother is not present, the father should light candles in addition to his daughter's.

Sources: The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, Likkutei Sichot, vol. 15, p. 163. Aruch Hashulchan 263:7. Neshek, by Rabbi Shalom Ber Levin.

Footnotes
2.

These include (in alphabetical order) the Alter, Friedman, Hager, Halberstam, Heschel, Karelitz, Rokeach, Schapiro, Schneersohn, Soloveitchik, Twerski, Weinberg, and Sonnenfeld families.

Chana Raizel Zaklikowski is the proud parent of three: Motti, Meir & Shaina.
© 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.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
15 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Chabad.org Staff via chabadone.org September 26, 2015

To Anonymous If there are no women in the house, you should light the candles. Reply

Anonymous Lincoln September 22, 2015

candle lighting What do I do if there are no women/girls to light the candles? Reply

Shaul Wolf Chabad.org September 29, 2014

Re: If one is unable to light a naked flame, the best option is to light a flashlight. Being that the flashlight is "fueled" by the battery, it is equivalent to a candle which is fueled by wax or oil. A stone, however, does not achieve this objective. Reply

Thalia Elvidge September 23, 2014

Chana please answer my question. The author, Chana Raizel Zaklikowski said that It was only during the World Wars candles became scarce and even the heads of households could not easily obtain candles. Therefore the custom was forgotten.
I wanted to query if no naked flame is allowed (like on a military ship) or if there are no candles would a single small unaltered/uncut stone be acceptable in the place of a lit candle as an alter for my Shabbat Candle-Lighting and Prayers to G-d? Reply

Sylvia Los Angeles September 24, 2013

Guests lighting candles Thank you, I do provide candles. Reply

Anonymous Camarillo, CA, USA September 23, 2013

Response to Sylvia It is customary for female guests to light candles. Some hostesses buy extra candles for guests to use, so that guests do not have to bring their own. However, if you are not supplying her with candles for her to light, then it would not be disrespectful for her to use her own candles in your house. Reply

Sylvia Los Angeles September 17, 2013

Shabbat candles My son's girlfriend wants to light her own candles in my home at the time that I light the Shabbat candles. I don't know if it is disrespectful of her or is it customary for other women to light candles in other homes? Reply

Anonymous Sandwich, MA November 20, 2010

Shiloh "Young girl with fire...Something said she understood" [Shiloh] - Neil Diamond Reply

Joshua Bnei Brak, Israel November 16, 2010

Young girls lighting Shabbos candles The custom of young girls lighting candles is mentioned in the Halachic book Aruch HaShulchan Reply

Anonymous olney, md November 11, 2010

Thank you for sharing the Rebbe's thoughts Thank you for sharing the Rebbe's thoughts and teachings regarding this mitzvah. As a convert who converted over 20 years ago, the history regarding the lack of candles during WWI and WWII is new information to me. Reply

chaya mushkah greenberg shanghai, china November 9, 2010

ahem i am ten years old and i have been lighting shabbos and yomtov candles since i have been able to stand, wich was before i even turned one. so i think you SHOULD light shabbos and yomtov candles even BEFORE you are bat mitzvah. Reply

Menachem Posner for Chabad.org June 10, 2010

To Anonymous from Camarillo, CA: Thanks for bringing that up.

It is a mitzvah for us to teach our children how to do the mitzvot, even before they reach the age of majority. For this reason, it is permitted to teach them how to recite the blessings—even though this will entail the teacher/parent pronouncing G-d’s name in vain (see Code of Jewish Law 215:3).

On the other hand, when lighting the menorah with the governor a few days before Chanukah, I assume that there were no actual children present who needed the demo to learn how to recite the words properly, so they said the blessings without using G-d’s name. Reply

Anonymous Camarillo, CA June 9, 2010

If it's just educational, why is any blessing ok? Saying G-d's name except in a required prayer/blessing is prohibited. For example, we must not say Baruk atah... ha-aretz, if we are not actually going to eat. If the lighting by girls under Bat Mitzvah age is primarily educational and could be skipped when there were shortages of candles, then they are not "commanded" to do it, so it is not correct to say "...asher kid-e-shanu b'mitzvo sov" (Blessed are you, [the Lord's name] ... "who has commanded us to light...") because that blessing is reserved for obligatory lightings.

For example, when a Chabad Rabbi and the governor of Calfornia lit a Hanukah menorah several days prior to Hanukah for a webcast, the Rabbi said "Baruk atah hashem elohayno..." because the regular version of the blessing is prohibited except at required lightings. Reply

Menachem Posner for Chabad.org June 10, 2010

To Anonymous in Melbourne Please see the PS where the author wrote:
"A girl under the age of bat mitzvah lights a candle primarily for educational purposes—and the adult members of the household do not fulfill their obligation of Shabbat candles through her candle. The mother should continue to light her own candles, or, if the mother is not present, the father should light candles in addition to the daughter's." Reply

Anonymous Melbourne, Australia June 9, 2010

shabbat candle lighting I was taught that if there is no woman in a household, the men should light candles - but you have made no mention of this in the article. Is it correct? 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 . . .
Related Topics