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Jewish IdentityWhy do we light Shabbat candles?

Why do we light Shabbat candles?

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Last Updated on October 31, 2021

What is the reason for lighting candles on Shabbat?

There are many reasons for lighting candles on Shabbat, and our Sages implemented the lighting of them for several reasons:

We are told that the basic purpose of the Shabbat candles is to bring increased light, peace and calm into our homes. We light our home so that we should not stumble in the darkness, something which would create an un-peaceful effect.

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

For pleasure: to fully enjoy the Shabbat delicacies, we must be able to see our food

The Midrash tells us that G‑d says, “If you kindle the Shabbat lights, I will show you the marvelous radiance that will shine upon Jerusalem at the final redemption.”

In the Torah, Exodus 20:8 tells us to “Remember the Sabbat day and keep it holy” and in Deuteronomy 5:12 tells us to “Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you.” For this reason we light two candles.

Lighting Up

Before they are married, women and girls are only required to light one candle. After they are married, women light at least two candles. Some add an additional candle for each child: e.g., a woman with four children lights six candles.

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

The Jewish tradition of lighting candles

According to Jewish traditions, our Matriarch Sarah. the wife of Abraham, would light the candles in her home, on the eve of the Shabbat.  The candles miraculously burned all week, from one Friday to the next.

Abraham was known for his hospitality and so the light of Sarah’s candles lit their home and welcomed the guests that visited them throughout the week.

When Sarah died, her Shabbat candles were extinguished. Years later, Isaac, the son of Sarah and Abraham, noticed that the Shabbat candles of his prospective wife, Rebecca, also burned for an entire week, from one Shabbat to another.  When he saw this he understood that Rebecca was Sarah’s righteous successor, and so he married her.

Shabbat Greetings & Expressions

In Israel, on Thursday, you will already hear people wishing each other a ‘Shabbat Shalom’

Shabbat Shalom – שבת שלום – A peaceful Sabbath

When the Sabbath comes to an end on Saturday after sunset, it is customary to wish each other ‘Shavua Tov’

Shavua Tov – שבוע טוב – Have a good week

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