Sabbath Candles: Bringing Light to the World
Another week of work and activity draws to a close as darkness approaches with the setting of the sun. In Jewish time each day begins as the sun goes down, just as described in Genesis 1:5, “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” Therefore, the Sabbath, or Shabbat in Hebrew, begins on Friday night and ends with the appearance of the stars of Saturday evening. As the sun goes down on Friday evening we usher in the day of rest and tranquility with the lighting of the Sabbath candles.
Traditionally the women and girls of the family light the Jewish Sabbath Candles to welcome the Sabbath each week into our lives. With the lighting of the candles we usher blessings to our home and peace to the world. As the Shabbat candles are lit, the women lighting the candles say this blessing, “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.” Candle lighting is a favorable time for saying a private prayer. When you have completed the blessing, take a moment can pray to G-d for whatever is in your heart.
At least two Jewish Sabbath candles should be lit each week. This is to honor the two elements found in Exodus 20:8, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” One candle represents the first half of this commandment, “zahor” or “remember” and other candle represents “shamor” or “keep”. However, many families choose to light more than two Shabbat candles each week. In doing this we honor the first thing G-d chose to create after the heavens and the earth, which was light. Often families light one additional candle for each child because children are truly the light of G-d.
Jewish Sabbath candles should be lit no later than 18 minutes before the Sabbath begins. The candles should be marked as kosher for use as Shabbat candles. At a minimum, the candles need to burn until the Sabbath actually begins. However, it is better if the candles burn throughout the Sabbath meal and even more ideal if they burn throughout the rest of the evening. Sabbath candles bring tranquility to the household and the longer the inhabitants can enjoy them the better.