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Do Young Girls Light Shabbat and Holiday Candles?

Do Young Girls Light Shabbat and Holiday Candles?

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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 verse (Genesis 24:67) 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.1

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 Schneersohn, 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, or 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 our children, one more good deed will only help dispel the darkness.

Wishing you much nachas 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 the daughter's.

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

FOOTNOTES
1.

These include the (in alphabetical order) Alter, Friedman, Hagar, Halberstam, Heschel, Karlitz, Rokeach, Schapiro, Schneersohn, Soloveichik, Twerski, Weinberg, and Zononfeld families.

Chana Raizel Zaklikowski is the proud parent of three: Motti, Meir & Shaina.
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Discussion (11)
September 24, 2013
Guests lighting candles
Thank you, I do provide candles.
Sylvia
Los Angeles
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.
Anonymous
Camarillo, CA, USA
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?
Sylvia
Los Angeles
November 20, 2010
Shiloh
"Young girl with fire...Something said she understood" [Shiloh] - Neil Diamond
Anonymous
Sandwich, MA
November 16, 2010
Young girls lighting Shabbos candles
The custom of young girls lighting candles is mentioned in the Halachic book Aruch HaShulchan
Joshua
Bnei Brak, Israel
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.
Anonymous
olney, md
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.
chaya mushkah greenberg
shanghai, china
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.
Menachem Posner for Chabad.org
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.
Anonymous
Camarillo, CA
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."
Menachem Posner for Chabad.org
Show all comments
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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