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Blessings & Instructions for Shabbat Candles

Blessings & Instructions for Shabbat Candles

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Darkness is settling upon the world; the workweek is coming to a close. A week of activity, a week of growth, a tiring week. But as the sun goes down, a new day is being ushered in: the day for which we toiled the entire week, a day of rest and tranquility, the holy Shabbat.

Greeting the Shabbat (and also Jewish holidays) are girls and women across the globe. Shortly before sunset they light candles, which usher in peace and blessing to their homes and to the world.

Click here for the candle-lighting instructions.

Origin and Reasons

The first woman to light Shabbat candles was our Matriarch Sarah. According to Jewish tradition, Sarah would light the Shabbat candles on the eve of the Shabbat, in the famous tent she shared with Abraham, and the candles would miraculously burn from one Friday to the next. Thus the pleasant sight of Sarah's candles greeted the many guests that visited Abraham and Sarah's tent throughout the week.

When Sarah passed away, the flames on her Shabbat candles were extinguished. A few years later, when Isaac saw that the Shabbat candles of his prospective wife, Rebecca, had the same miraculous ability to continue burning throughout the week, he understood that she was Sarah's righteous successor, and he wed her happily.

Our Sages implemented the lighting of Shabbat and holiday candles for several reasons.

Peace in the Home: Shabbat and holidays are intended to be peaceful oases in our chaotic lives. We illuminate our home so that we should not stumble in the darkness, something which would have a decidedly un-peaceful effect.

Honoring the Day: We add light in the home to honor the Shabbat Queen.

Pleasure: To fully enjoy the Shabbat delicacies, one must be able to see the food—which requires a well-lit room.

The mystics explain that Shabbat is the day that brings illumination to our world, which so often seems to be dark and negative. Furthermore, candles are a metaphor for Torah and for the human soul. The candles represent the light we introduce into the world through studying Torah and observing its precepts. And they also represent the "additional soul" with which, our Sages explain, we are endowed on Shabbat.

The Basics

Prepare the candles (or oil and wicks) and matches, and a fireproof surface upon which to place the match after lighting the candles, such as a metal or ceramic plate.1 The candles should be set up in close proximity to where you will eat the Shabbat meal. The candles should be sufficiently large (or the oil bountiful enough) so that the flame will burn for the duration of the meal. Many have the custom, when applicable, that the man of the household sets up and prepares the candles for lighting.

Until marriage, women and girls light one candle. Post-marriage, women light (at least) two candles. Some add an additional candle for each child: e.g., a woman with three children lights five candles.

If no woman (over the age of bat mitzvah) is present in the home, a man should light the candles.

Light the candles eighteen minutes before sunset—and under no circumstances later than sunset! The times fluctuate based on date and location—click here to receive a free SMS reminder every Friday with candle-lighting time for your location. (On holidays [other than Yom Kippur] that do not coincide with Shabbat, one may light the candles after sunset, using an existing flame.)

The Procedure

  • While dressed in your Shabbat or holiday finery, place several coins in a charity box. Many have the custom to dedicate this charity to the poor in Israel.
     
  • Light the candles. Place the lit match on the designated surface.
     
  • Extend your hands over the candles, draw them inwards three times in a circular motion, and then cover your eyes.
     
  • Say the blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אַדֹנָ-י אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל שַׁבָּת קֹדֶשׁ

Transliteration: Baruch a-ta A-do-nay Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam a-sher ki-di-sha-nu bi-mitz-vo-tav vi-tzi-va-noo li-had-leek ner shel Sha-bat ko-desh.

Translation: Blessed are you, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the Holy Shabbat.

(Click here for holiday blessings)

  • Now, while your eyes are still covered, is an auspicious time to pray for your heart's desires. The custom is to pray for children who will be upright and G‑d-fearing, and for the coming of Moshiach. Take the time also to pray for others who need blessings and good health.
     
  • Uncover your eyes, gaze at the candles, and then greet everyone with blessings of a good Shabbat or holiday.

With the lighting of the candles, a woman ushers in the holy Shabbat. No "weekday" activities are to be done from that point on, as she has now entered a world of tranquility.

FOOTNOTES
1.

Once the candles are lit, the Shabbat has been ushered in. As such, it is forbidden at that time to extinguish the match.

By Chabad.org Staff
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Discussion (102)
July 25, 2014
Is it ok to sing the blessing or just recite it?
Anonymous
February 22, 2014
For HaShem's Joy
Imagine what HaShem sees as the candles are lit across the globe on Shabbat? Like an orange-clove spice ball, our beautiful globe becomes dotted with candlelight, flickering and filled with love for HaShem. This is what I imagine, as I close my eyes and say the blessing and then uncover them to see the lit candles for "the first time." I imagine that we are with HaShem, gazing down in joyful surprise at this gift of light to Him.
Ann
Canada
February 13, 2014
The day begins when we are here to greet it.
Why would a day begin at midnight, which is the way the western calendar defines it? Nobody can greet the day then, when everybody else is asleep.

We want to gather together to welcome the new day, and all the more so when that day is Shabbat. We look forward to it all week and rejoice when it arrives. Its blessing fills the whole week following.

People rise at different times of the morning. Morning services even begin at varying times.

But everyone can gather together to greet Shabbat just before sunset Friday night. And we greet Her again when the meal is about to begin. We bless the children. We sing a song of welcome to the Shabbat Bride and Queen. And finally one of the men present (or one of the women, if there are no men) sings, making Kiddush (sanctification), holding a cup of grape juice perched on his palm and sharing the wine with everyone.

And all this joy enters each of us and lasts all week, blessing all that we do during that next week.
Rivka
Kansas City
February 11, 2014
The phrase "and it was evening and it was morning" is far more than mere "style".

GD spoke the Torah. Every word, and certainly every sentence, is meaningful in directing what the Children of Israel are to do.

Gd said "evening" first because evening COMES FIRST.

There is even a poem in English which begins, "The day is done, and the darkness falls from the wings of night".

Obviously, the day IS done when the sun, which provides DAYLIGHT, is beyond the horizon. And when one day is done, the next day begins.

So, despite secular or other non-Torah objections, the Bible is correct (not merely stylish) when it says, "there was evening, and there was morning, one day".
Chaim
Cinncinnati
January 18, 2014
Why would a day start at night? Where is a day defined? In English a day can mean daytime
Why would a day start at night? Where is a day defined? In English a day can mean a 24 hour period as well as a period of daytime or daylight. What is the meaning of the term used to describe sabbath DAY in the original language of Moses? I personally believe sabbath day begins at dawn on Saturday , what evidence do you have to the contrary? And the bible being written to say 'there was evening and there was morning.. Does not equate to proof, it's simply the authors style of writing.
Anonymous
January 9, 2014
Just what i needed
This is just what me and my family need. We will do this every Friday night (when Shabbat starts)

Shalom
Grace Maloisi
November 11, 2013
To John in Austria
Your question is addressed right here:
Eliezer Zalmanov
for Chabad.org
November 10, 2013
Candle Lighting and Bible
I posted this question in March - still no answer. Anyone to help me with this?

Can someone please tell me, where I can find the order of G_d to light the candles in the Bible? Thank you!
John
Austria
November 9, 2013
What would be considered Shabbat or holiday finery ?
Anonymous
Ny
October 13, 2013
To Anonymous in S. Pete
Our tradition is that Abraham and Sarah kept the entire Torah even though it was not yet given. They knew the Torah from their understanding of the inner mechanics of the universe. Therefore it is reasonable to believe that at no time in our history did a Friday night pass without that light.
Eliezer Zalmanov
for Chabad.org
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