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All About Judaism's Sabbath Candles

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Sabbath candles

Sabbath candles

Lisa Katz

Why do Jewish Women Light Shabbat Candles?:

It is a mitzvah for Jews to light candles to usher in Judaism's Day of Rest. It is a mitzvah for Jewish men and women to light Sabbath candles on Friday night. Since the wife generally has more influence over the spirit of the home, she was given the privilege of lighting the Shabbat candles. If a man lives alone, then he should light the candles.

Why Do Jewish Women Light Sabbath Candles on Friday Night?:

According to Rashi (Talmud, Shabbat 31b), women are obligated to light Shabbat candles because women were responsible for dimming the world's light (Eve was tempted by the snake) and now they must bring light back into the world. Others say women are obligated simply because they are more associated with the home. The explanation I like best is that the naturally spiritual nature of women best qualifies them to be responsible for bringing the spirit of Shabbat into the home.

How Many Candles Should Be Lit on Friday Night?:

The most common custom is to light two candles for the two important Biblical references to Shabbat: "Remember the Sabbath" (Exodus 20:8) and "Observe the Sabbath" (Deuteronomy 5:12). However, many people light an additional candle for each child in the family, and others light seven candles for each day of the week or for the Temple's seven-branched menora.

What is the blessing recited over the Sabbath candles?:

Barukh atah Adonai E1oheinu, melekh ha'olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Shabbat.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has made us holy through His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Sabbath light.

How Should Sabbath Candles Be Lit?:

After lighting the candles, the woman covers her eyes with her hands and recites the above blessing. After the blessing, some women add a silent prayer for the family.

Only after the blessing is recited, the woman uncovers her eyes and looks at the light. By covering her eyes, the woman can focus more fully on the blessing and can postpone the enjoyment of the fruits of the blessing (seeing the light) until after the blessing is recited.
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