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Lighting the Candles

Every Friday, before sunset, we light Shabbat candles in the dining room. The Law is to light them around eighteen minutes before sunset.

Light the candles, then cover your eyes and recite the blessing, either in Hebrew or in English:

Boruch Attah Adonai, Elohainu Melech ha-olam, asher kidishanu b'mitzvotav, v'tsivanu l'hadlik ner shel Shabbat.

(Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who has made us holy through His commandments, and commanded us to light the Sabbath light.)

Uncover your eyes, and gaze briefly at the candles. Then recite the following prayer:

May it be Your will Hashem my God and God of my forefathers that You show favor to me (my husband, my son(s) and daughter(s), my father and mother), and all my relatives; that You grant us and all Israel a good and long life; that You remember us with a remembrance that will grant us good and blessings; that You consider us with a consideration that will grant us salvation and mercy; that You bless us with great blessings; that You make our homes complete; and that You cause Your Presence to dwell among us.

Make me worthy of the privilege and grant me the merit to raise children and grandchildren who are wise and understanding, who love Hashem, and fear Hashem; may they be people of truth, holy offspring, devoutly faithful to Hashem, and may they illuminate the world with Torah and good deeds and with every type of activity that serves the Creator.

Please, listen to my request at this favorable time, in the merit of our mothers Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. And illuminate our lights so that they never get extinguished. Shine your "Face" upon us with joy and we will be saved, Amen.

There are three basic reasons for lighting the candles for the Sabbath:

1) To honor the Shabbos. sort of like how people put up lights for parties, perhaps, or put the lights on high for a grand celebration;
2) To make sure there is light in the house during the Friday night meal. This ensures that the people will enjoy their food more;
3) For peace at home. If people stumble around and fall down there will be no peace in the house during Shabbos. Peace at home is of utmost importance in Judaism.

These days, we have electric lighting, but the first reason is still relevant.

The candles do not need to be of any particular color. Standard custom is to use white candles, but there is no law about this. They should be large enough so that they are still burning during (at least) the beginning of the meal, when the family is together at the table. Most Jewish groceries have special paraffin candles called "Shabbos Candles." Ask for those, if you are able to shop at a store like that.

It is customary that the woman of the household light the candles, but any adult may do it. One should light at least two candles (or oil lamps). This is to honor the Torah's double reference to the Sabbath: the Torah says both "Remember" and "Guard" the Sabbath. The most prevalent custom is to light one for each member of the family (single people living alone light two lights anyway). In other words, the minimum is two, and we add a light for each child brought into the home.

The lights should be lit in the room where you will be eating. If you are sleeping at home but eating elsewhere Friday night, light the candles where you will be sleeping.

Safety is important. If you have little children at home, place the candles where the children cannot get to them. Remember, toddlers have a habit of pulling tablecloths! They can pull off a tablecloth and the candlesticks will fall down with it. Either get strong clips for the tablecloth, or place the candles somewhere out of the reach of the children.

There is a custom to give charity just before lighting the lights. Therefore one should always have a special charity box (called a pushka) available in the house that one can put money in for charity. Every so often, distribute the money to a proper cause.

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