We usher in the peace and sanctity of Shabbat by lighting candles every Friday evening and on the eve of Jewish holidays. The candles bring peace into our homes, and add light and warmth to a world that sometimes feels dark and cold.

When to Light the Shabbat Candles

The candles are lit eighteen minutes before sunset. Some communities, such as those in Jerusalem, have the custom of lighting the candles and bringing in the Shabbat earlier. In that case, light the candles as per your community custom.

Find times for your area here.

The earliest one may light the Shabbat candles is plag haminchah on Friday afternoon. Plag haminchah, one and a quarter daylight hours before the end of the day. See our Zmanim page for when that is in your location.

The latest you may light the candles is just before sunset; after sunset, Shabbat has begun even if you have not lit the candles, and handling or lighting a flame is a desecration of the Shabbat and forbidden.

On holidays, you can light later as well, provided that you use a pre-existing flame. When a holiday follows Shabbat or a holiday (eg. the second day of a two-day holiday), the candles must be lit after nightfall. Click here for times, procedures and blessings for the holiday candle-lighting.

Read: Why are candles lit 18 minutes before Sunset?

More on the exact time to light candles

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Photos: Flash90 (None of the people depicted were photographed on the holiday.)
Photos: Flash90 (None of the people depicted were photographed on the holiday.)

Who Should Light the Shabbat Candles

The mitzvah of lighting candles has been given especially to women, the mainstays of the Jewish home, but it is an obligation for every home, and if no woman over bat mitzvah is present to light, the candles are lit by the man of the home.

As soon as a young girl can understand the significance of Shabbat and can say the blessing (at approximately three years of age), she should kindle her own Shabbat candle.

Read more: Do Young Girls Light Shabbat Candles?

Photo: Mushka Lightstone
Photo: Mushka Lightstone

How Many Candles Should be Lit

Single girls and women light one candle. After marriage, women light two — and some have the custom of lighting one candle for each member of the immediate family.

Candles are lit on or near the table where the Shabbat dinner will be served, to add to the light and joy of Shabbat.

Photo: Duane Stork Photography
Photo: Duane Stork Photography

How to Light the Shabbat Candles

It is customary to give some coins to charity before kindling the Shabbat candles. Before we pray to G‑d and ask Him kindly to grant our deepest wishes, it is appropriate to display kindness to others.

After you've given charity and removed the charity box, light the candles. A girl should light before her mother, so her mother can help if necessary, and is also forbidden to light her candle after the proper time.

After you’ve lit the candles, do not put out the match. Rather, drop it on a fireproof surface or give it to someone who has not yet accepted Shabbat .

Use your hands to shield your eyes from the flames and recite the blessing while your eyes are covered.

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

Transliteration: Baruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-olam A-sher Ki-de-sha-nu Be-mitz-vo-tav Ve-tzi-va-nu Le-had-lik Ner Shel Sha-bbat Ko-desh.

Translation: Blessed are You, Lord 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.

The time of candle-lighting is considered particularly auspicious for private prayer. Women have traditionally prayed, as they stand with eyes closed, for health, happiness, children who will illuminate the world with Torah, and the ultimate Redemption which will be ushered in by the Messiah. Girls, too, offer their own prayers at this special moment, as they discover the beauty of a practice which will enlighten their entire lives.

Uncover your eyes, gaze at the Shabbat lights and greet your family with "Good Shabbos" or "Shabbat Shalom."

Once you light the candles and recite the blessing, you have accepted Shabbat. As fire is muktzeh (set aside, and forbidden to move) on shabbat, the candles and candlesticks may not be moved until the conclusion of Shabbat.

More on how to light the candles

Afterthought

Photo: Elisheva Golani Photography (elishevagolani.com), via JewishLatinPrincess.com
Photo: Elisheva Golani Photography (elishevagolani.com), via JewishLatinPrincess.com

A small flame, or pair of flames, can seem so small and weak. How much of a difference can it make in the gloom of a world engulfed in darkness? The answer is a lot. The beauty of light is that even the smallest point of radiance can dispel much darkness. In the words of the sages, “a candle to one is a candle to many.”

And together, all of our Shabbat candles, from all over the globe, will join together in creating a giant blaze of spiritual light, ushering in the era of eternal Shabbat, the days of Moshiach. To quote the sages once again, “If you keep the light of Shabbat,” says G‑d, “I will show you the lights of Zion.”

May it happen soon. Amen!

Additional Reading

Read: Where does the Torah say to light Shabbat candles?

Read: What are Shabbat candles?