Blessing Over the Shabbat Candles
Blessed are You our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to light the Shabbat candle[s].
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל שַׁבָּת.
“Shabbat Candle lighting”, Illustration: Rinat Gilboa
Foundations for Planning
- Why are holidays, rituals, customs, important to me, my family, and my community?
- How do Jewish rituals and practices enrich the way I experience my life and the world?
- Why/how might Jewish practices be meaningful for me even if I don’t define myself as “religious”?
- How does candle light affect the Shabbat atmosphere?
According to Jewish tradition, candle lighting marks the moment that Shabbat enters the home. The candles are lit just before sunset and immediately afterwards the blessing over the candles is recited. It is customary to light two candles: One for the biblical verse “remember...
According to Jewish tradition, candle lighting marks the moment that Shabbat enters the home. The candles are lit just before sunset and immediately afterwards the blessing over the candles is recited.
It is customary to light two candles: One for the biblical verse “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”, which appears in the Ten Commandments in the Book of Exodus (Shemot); and the second for the biblical verse “sanctify the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”, which appears in the Ten Commandments in the Book of Deuteronomy (Devarim).
That being said, one may light more than two candles. Some families light an equal number of candles to members of the household.
Lighting candles in the classroom:
- Bring Shabbat candles and candlesticks to class. If possible, turn off the lights before lighting the candles to darken the room. Ask the students what thoughts and feelings arise when they’re in the dark.
- Light the candles and then ask the students to talk about what thoughts and feelings arise when the room is lit.
- Tell the students about how in the days of our Sages (Chazal), electricity had not yet been invented and houses were lit with oil candles. Since there is a biblical prohibition against lighting candles on Shabbat, Chazal dictated that candles should be lit immediately prior to Shabbat in order to avoid an unpleasant situation in which people would be left to eat their Shabbat meal in the dark – because, after all, we are meant to enjoy Shabbat, and sitting in the dark could impair our enjoyment.
Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.
- The candle lighting ceremony transports us from one time to another (from weekday to Shabbat, ordinary to holy). Do you know of other ceremonies that transport us from one time to another?
- Candle lighting is the first ceremony done to bring in Shabbat and its special atmosphere. What, in your opinion, is special about candle light? Is there a difference between the light produced by candles and the light produced by electricity?
In Light of the Illustration:
- Notice the light in the drawing: What light is reflected in the window? What time of day is it? What light is in the house? What atmosphere does it create?
- Suggest a name appropriate for the drawing and the atmosphere it depicts.
- Lighting candles is the moment we welcome Shabbat. It is a time when we pause, we leave the week behind us and begin to enjoy Shabbat. Perhaps the kids in the picture are thinking about something from the past week that they are thankful for. If you were one of them, what would you be thinking about?
- In this drawing, two candles are lit. Different families have different candle lighting traditions. Some families light two candles, some light as many candles as people in the house. Do you know any other Shabbat candle lighting traditions?
- Together with the students, make candlesticks for Shabbat using various materials (try using recycled materials, here is an example of a project idea). Ask the students to think of designs and decorations that they think would best suit the atmosphere of Shabbat.
- Explain to the students that some people add their own personal prayers/requests to the blessing over the candles. Invite the students to gaze at the candles that they lit in the classroom and think about what they would want to ask for by candlelight. Guide them with questions: What would they want to ask for themselves, for their families, their class, their friends, their country, the world?
- Ask the students if they have candlesticks in their homes. If so, where did they come from, how did they get to your family? Do they have an interesting backstory? The students can photograph the candlesticks and write down their explanations.
- Those who do not have candlesticks at home can look for pictures of candlesticks on the internet. They can explain why they chose these specific candlesticks and talk about them. This activity can be turned into a creative writing activity: The students can write about the candlesticks in first person (“where I came from”, “where I live in the house”, “how I feel on Fridays”, “how I feel when Shabbat ends”, etc.)
- Prayer is also used to welcome Shabbat. You can teach the students about the liturgical hymn “Lecha Dodi” and listen to it. (this resource is intended for students ages 9 and up).
- Additional ceremonies that are central to Shabbat include kiddush, the blessing made over wine at the beginning of Shabbat, on Shabbat morning, and at havdalah – the ceremony performed at the end of Shabbat.