Sephardic Tradition: Friday Night Candle Lighting

In this Hebrew clip (at 1:00), Inbar Tabiv demonstrates how to light the Shabbat candles, first reciting the blessing and then kindling the candles according to the tradition of many Mizrahi (Sephardic), Yemenite and Moroccan Jews. Note that instead of invoking God’s name (Adonai) during the blessing, Inbar chooses to say ‘the name’ (Hashem) instead, as this video is for demonstration purposes only. The following post explains the rationale behind the custom of blessing the candles prior to lighting them. The author, Rabbi Howard Markose, is a Jerusalem-based educator and former community rabbi who received rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. 

The Custom of Blessing the Candles Prior to Lighting

While most blessings in Judaism are said prior to the accompanying act (we say the blessing over food before we eat it, for example), the challenge faced when kindling the Shabbat candles is that the person who recites the blessing over the candles is actually beginning their Shabbat – a day which includes a number of prohibitions, including the lighting of fire. If this is the case, then reciting the blessing before lighting the candles might be contrary to this law

Some Sephardic/Yemenite/Moroccan homes, therefore, follow the following order of the ritual: The person pronounces the blessing and then lights the candles while having in mind that Shabbat will begin for them only after the candles are lit.