Shabbat Candles

Question 1: Name an event or occasion you've been to where candles were lit. How did the candles add to your experience of the event?


וְיֵשׁ מְכַוְּנִים לַעֲשׂוֹת ב' פְּתִילוֹת אֶחָד כְּנֶגֶד זָכוֹר וְאֶחָד כְּנֶגֶד שָׁמוֹר.

Some specifically make two lights; one corresponding to "Zakhor" (Remember) and one corresponding to "Shamor" (Guard).


הדלקת נר בשבת חובה

lighting the Shabbat candle is an obligation.


"חובה" - כבוד שבת הוא, שאין סעודה חשובה אלא במקום אור כעין יממא...

Obligation - This is included in "honoring Shabbat" (Kevod Shabbat), for a feast is not important unless it is in a place where it is as bright as day...


Question 2: According to Rashi's explanation of the Gemara, what is the reason for the obligation to light Shabbat candles?

(יז) וַתִּזְנַ֧ח מִשָּׁל֛וֹם נַפְשִׁ֖י נָשִׁ֥יתִי טוֹבָֽה׃
(17) My life was bereft of peace, I forgot what happiness was.

(איכה ג, יז) "ותזנח משלום נפשי נשיתי טובה." מאי "ותזנח משלום נפשי"? אמר ר' אבהו: זו הדלקת נר בשבת.

My life was bereft of peace, I forgot what happiness was (Lamentations 3:17). What does it mean by "my life was bereft of peace"? Rabbi Abahu said: this [phrase in the verse] refers to the lighting of the Shabbat candles.


הדלקת נר בשבת. שלא היה לו ממה להדליק ובמקום שאין נר אין שלום שהולך ונכשל והולך באפילה:

"The lighting of the Shabbat Candles"--that he did not have from what to light them. And where there is no candle, there is no peace, as he is walking and stumbling while walking in darkness


Question 3: Based on Rashi's explanation of the Gemara, how is the Gemara reading the verse in Lamentations?

Question 4: What do these sources suggest regarding the reason behind the Mitzvah?


(א) הַדְלָקַת נֵר בְּשַׁבָּת אֵינָהּ רְשׁוּת ... אֶלָּא זֶה חוֹבָה. וְאֶחָד אֲנָשִׁים וְאֶחָד נָשִׁים חַיָּבִין לִהְיוֹת בְּבָתֵּיהֶן נֵר דָּלוּק בְּשַׁבָּת. ... שֶׁזֶּה בִּכְלַל עֹנֶג שַׁבָּת. וְחַיָּב לְבָרֵךְ קֹדֶם הַדְלָקָה "בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל שַׁבָּת." כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁמְּבָרֵךְ עַל כָּל הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁהוּא חַיָּב בָּהֶם מִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים:

(1) The kindling of a lamp on Shabbat is not optional... rather, it is an obligation. And both men and women are equally obligated that a lamp be kindled in their houses on Shabbat.... since this is [included] in the rule of enjoyment on Shabbat. And one is obligated to bless before the kindling: "Blessed are You LORD our God, King of the universe who makes us holy with His commandments and commands us to kindle a Shabbat lamp" in the way that one blesses over all things which one is obligated [to do] by the words of the Sages.


Question 5: According to Maimonides, who is obligated in the mitzvah of lighting Shabbat candles? What is the source of this obligation?


Question 6: Based on the above sources, do you think a person should be able to fulfill his/her obligation using electric lights? Explain.

(כז) נֵ֣ר יְ֭הוָה נִשְׁמַ֣ת אָדָ֑ם חֹ֝פֵ֗שׂ כָּל־חַדְרֵי־בָֽטֶן׃

(27) The soul of man is the lamp of the LORD Revealing all his inmost parts.


Question 7: What does this verse suggest regarding the significance of candles? To what degree can it be applied to the Shabbat candles specifically?


Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, "The Sabbath," page 66

Just as creation began with the word, "Let there be light!" so does the celebration of creation begin with the kindling of lights.


Question 8: According to Rabbi Heschel, what does candle lighting symbolize?


Background to the following source: The Shulchan Arukh was written by Rabbi Yosef Karo in 1563 in Safed. The Shulchan Arukh has been accepted the most accepted code of Jewish Law by traditional Jews.

18 יח

(י) לבה ''ג, כֵּיוָן שֶׁהִדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל שַׁבָּת חָל עָלָיו שַׁבָּת וְנֶאֱסַר בִּמְלָאכָה.... וְיֵשׁ חוֹלְקִים עַל בַּעַל ה ''ג וְאוֹמְרִים שֶׁאֵין קַבָּלַת שַׁבָּת תָּלוּי בְּהַדְלָקַת הַנֵּר אֶלָּא בִּתְפִלַּת עַרְבִית,

According to the Halakhic work, Ba'al Halakhot Gedolot, once the Shabbat Candle is light, the obligations of Shabbat fall upon that person and he can no longer work...And some argue with him and say that accepting Shabbat is not dependent on lighting the Shabbat Candles but rather on reciting the Evening Prayer [on Friday evening]....


הַגָּה: יֵשׁ מִי שֶׁאוֹמֵר שֶׁמְּבָרְכִין קֹדֶם הַהַדְלָקָה, וְיֵשׁ מִי שֶׁאוֹמֵר שֶׁמְּבָרֵךְ אַחַר הַהַדְלָקָה (מָרְדְּכַי סוֹף ב''מ), וּכְדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא עוֹבֵר לַעֲשִׂיָּתוֹ לֹא יֵהָנֶה מִמֶּנָּה עַד לְאַחַר הַבְּרָכָה, וּמְשִׂימִין הַיָּד לִפְנֵי הַנֵּר אַחַר הַדְלָקָה וּמְבָרְכִין, וְאַחַר כָּךְ מְסַלְּקִין הַיָּד וְזֶה מִקְרֵי עוֹבֵר לָעֲשִׂיָהּ, וְכֵן הַמִּנְהָג (מַהֲרִי''ל).

The following is from the Ashkenazic commentary of Rabbi Moshe Isserlis on the Shulchan Arukh:

There are some who say that we recite the blessing on the Shabbat candles before lighting, while some say that we recite the blessing after lighting. In order to [recite the blessing] immediately before fulfilling the mitzvah, one should not benefit from the light until after reciting the blessing. We place a hand in front of the candle after lighting and then recite the blessing. Then we remove the hand, so that it is considered to be [reciting the blessing] immediately before fulfilling the mitzvah.

21 כא

NOTE: many women don't wave.


Background: Candle Lighting times that you will see posted are based on the calculation of 18 minutes before sundown. The following source gives the most likely explanation for this practice.


(ב) יֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לְהוֹסִיף מֵחֹל עַל הַקֹּדֶשׁ;

Some say that one should add secular time to that of sacred time [add to the time of Shabbat].