Friday, 30 October 2009

Shabbat Candles - Some Tips and Information


One of our readers wanted to know how long Shabbat candles are lit for.

Shabbat candles are generally lit 18 minutes before sunset in most places and 40 minutes before sunset in Jerusalem and some other cities in Israel. The candles are left to burn themselves out.

In days gone by, the candles or fire were the main form of light in the home as there was no electricity. The candles were therefore needed to burn throughout the night. The reason being, that Shabbat is a time of peace and we do not want someone to bump into something and hurt themselves due to not having light during the night.

In today's times, where there is electricity and the possibility to leave a light on during the night, the custom is to have candles that will burn at lesat until you start your meal, i.e. throughout the evening prayers, reciting Kiddush and the blessing on bread - but ideally should burn throughout the entire meal. From this we see that the candles need to burn for a good 3-4 hours, not the kind of candles that will burn for only half an hour to an hour.

Many who choose to light using wax candles, will use the tealite candles. Others who use oil, purchase a glass insert for the candle sticks and use a combination of oil with a little water and a special wick one can purchase to put into the oil. This form is closest to how Sarah our mother would have lit her candles.

If you go into any Judaic store, they should have the glass inserts and be able to tell you how to prepare the oil, what kind of oil to use, which wicks to purchase etc.

There are some who use the longer white candles that have been manufactured for Shabbat candles. When doing so, do make sure that the candles you buy have a heksher (a valid accepted kosher authority approving the candles for Shabbat lighting purposes.) There are laws as to what materials are permissible to use for Shabbat candles and the manufacturers who have a heksher do follow these laws.

When lighting your Shabbat candles, do take care as to where you place your candles. In times gone by, some had a custom to place the candles on the dining room table that you will eat at. If you do so, please note, once lit, the Shabbat candles cannot be put out by a person and cannot be moved for the entire  duration of Shabbat. The table also cannot be moved, unless the candles are placed on a tray. The laws of how to do this are found in the laws for Shabbat. If you need help, either ask your own rabbi or contact Reb Eliyahu for guidance.

It is a better practice to place your Shabbat candles on another table or side board. Once again, please do make sure there are no curtains that could blow in the direction of the lit candles and that there is no window open directly near the candles that would either blow the candles out or cause the flame to travel to other items.

Many have a special shelf for their Shabbat candles with a glass fronted door that enables the candles to be seen and enjoyed while protecting them from falling over, being blown out, being put out or having a draft carry the flame, which is potentially dangerous.

I hope the tips above answer your questions about Shabbat candles. If you have any further questions, please do post a question to this post or email Shoshanah. To find out the correct time for candle lighting in your city, the best place to look is on Chabad.org . The link provided here will take you directly to the correct page to find the city you live in and the corresponding Halachic time to light Shabbat Candles.

Shabbat Shalom

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