Shabbat candles (Hebrew: נרות שבת) are candles lit on Friday evening before sunset to usher in the Jewish Sabbath. Lighting Shabbat candles is a rabbinically mandated law. Candlelighting is traditionally done by the woman of the household, but in the absence of a woman, it can be done by a man. After lighting the candles, the woman waves her hands over them, covers her eyes, and recites a blessing.
The first record of the complete text of the blessing is from the Siddur of Rav Amram, written by Amram Gaon in the 9th century. He then cites Talmudic sources that the blessing is mandatory.
Due to a dearth of earlier sources, with the exception of the Siddur of Rav Amram, it has been argued that, in Europe, Jewish women lit Shabbat lamps without a blessing until the 11th century. At that time, it is claimed that a blessing was introduced based on the blessing over the Chanukah menorah, which is many centuries older. This blessing is identical to the one found in the Siddur of Rav Amram. Rashi's granddaughter, Hannah, describes her mother lighting candles and reciting the blessing. The requirement to light Shabbat candles is thus of rabbinic origin. It is traditional to light two candles, but in some homes an additional candle is lit for each child. The lighting of Shabbat candles has a dual purpose: To "honor Shabbat" (כבוד שבת) and create shalom bayit or domestic peace (שלום בית).
In Yiddish, lighting the candles is known as licht bentschen or licht tsinden.
- "ברוך אתה ה״ אלוהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להדליק נר של שבת"
- Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha‑olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Shabbat.
- "Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light Shabbat candle[s]."
Chabad families add the word "kodesh" ("holy") at the end of the blessing, making "... the candle of holy Shabbat," (ner shel Shabbat kodesh).
- B.M. Lewin, The History of the Sabbath Candles, in Essays and Studies in Memory of Linda A. Miller, I. Davidson (ed), New York, 1938, pp.55-68.