Why Do We Light Shabbat Candles?

Lighting Shabbat candles is a mitzvah of rabbinic origin which was instituted to create a spirit of domestic peace, harmony and celebration in honour of the Shabbat. Halachah forbids the lighting of fire on Shabbat and the rabbis were concerned that without light, stumbling around in semi darkness was not conducive to creating a spirit of peace and enjoyment for the Shabbat. Therefore they made it a religious obligation to light candles just before the commencement of Shabbat.

Nowadays, in the age of electric lighting and electric timers, its purpose is more ceremonial than functional, but the ritual of the lighting is just as important in creating the desired Shabbat atmosphere in the Jewish home as the functional aspect once was. Maintaining the ritual serves to remind us of a valuable lesson: that we should never lose sight, in the minutiae of the observances and restrictions associated with keeping Shabbat, of the fact that its primary role is a celebratory one in which both physical and spiritual refreshment is the order of the day.

See also: Procedure for lighting Shabbat and Yom Tov candles

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