This article provides a concise overview of the ritual of lighting Shabbat candles in the home on Friday night, including where, when, by whom, and how the candles should be lit. The article provides a step-by-step guide, as well as an English transliteration and translation of the blessing. This description is provided by the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, the primary organization of synagogues practicing Conservative Judaism in North America.
Lighting Shabbat Candles
Lighting Shabbat candles on Friday as evening approaches delineates the beginning of Shabbat. The candles should be lit at the place where the meal will be eaten.
To prepare for candle lighting, find out from your synagogue bulletin the correct candle-lighting time or obtain a calendar with Jewish information from a local organization. Candles are lit between a half hour and 15 minutes before sunset with many authorities holding that the proper time is at least 18 minutes before. Choose a place for the candles to stay throughout Shabbat. Set your candles in the candlesticks and have a match and matchbook set beside them. Finally, at candle-lighting time, assemble the family.
The order for lighting candles at the beginning of Shabbat is unique. Normally a brakhah is said immediately before doing a mitzvah, fulfilling a commandment, and the mitzvah follows without interruption after the brakhah. Since Shabbat starts once we say the brakhah, we cannot light the candles after saying the brakhah. We solve this problem by performing this mitzvah in the following order:
1. Light the Shabbat candles. Every Jew is obligated to light candles; when both man and woman are present, traditionally the woman has lit them for all who are present because this is one of the mitzvot traditionally assigned to women.
2. Many follow the custom of drawing their hands to their faces three times in a circular motion, beckoning Shabbat to enter.
3. After the third circle, the person saying the brakhah closes her/his eyes and/or shields the eyes with the hands and says the brakhah:
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat.
Praised are You, Adonai our God, Who rules the universe, instilling in us the holiness of mitzvot by commanding us to kindle the light of Shabbat.
4. After the brakhah, the eyes are uncovered, and the person who has made the brakhah then looks at what are now the lit Shabbat candles for the first time. Personal prayers of thanks may be silently added after the brakhah. It is customary for everyone to wish each other “Shabbat Shalom.”
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