A: According to the Talmud, due to the fact that a poorly-lit room can lead to people tripping up and bickering as a result, Shabbat Candles bring light and as a result tranquility in to the Jewish home. The warm glow of the candles also brings a festive atmosphere in to the house.
Q: Why are the Jewish women commanded to light the Shabbat Candles?
A: The privilege of lighting Shabbat Candles is the woman’s for a couple of reasons;
- Eve persuaded Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and therefore brought death to the world, extinguishing the “candle of G-d.” As an atonement, women light Shabbat Candles and thus reignite the G-dly spark.
- The spirituality of a house is determined by the woman of the house. By encouraging Torah study and the performance of Mitzvot she transforms the home into a place of holiness, peace and tranquility. It is therefore fitting that she be the one to add extra light and holiness in the home by lighting the Shabbat Candles.
Q: Why do women have the custom to give charity before lighting Shabbat Candles?
A: Women will put money in a Tzedakah Box before lighting Shabbat Candles as once the candles are lit the Shabbat begins. Since handling money is forbidden on Shabbat, this form of charity cannot be practiced until Shabbat ends. Therefore, women make the most of this last opportunity to give charity as they usher in the holy day of Shabbat and remember those in need.
Q: Why do women have the custom to cover their eyes while reciting the blessing over the Shabbat Candles?
A: In Judaism, it is common practice for the blessing to be recited before the performance of a Mitzvah. In the case of lighting Shabbat Candles, the candles are lit first and then blessed over. This is because once the blessing has been recited the Shabbat is ushered in and lighting a candle is forbidden on Shabbat. Therefore, the women cover their eyes immediately after lighting the Shabbat Candles in order to recite the blessing so that the first enjoyment of the light of the Shabbat Candles will only be after reciting the blessing.
Q: Can any candle be used for Shabbat Candle-lighting?
A: Jewish Law goes into the different kinds of fuels and wicks that are invalid for using as Shabbat Candles because the flame that they produce is unstable. The concern is that one may therefore try and adjust the flame to stabilize it and thereby perform an action that is forbidden on Shabbat.
All candles that are manufactured today emit clean, stable flames and are therefore fine to be used as Shabbat Candles even if they contain non-kosher ingredients.