The table is set and the food is simmering on the stove. The Challah loaves shine with a golden tinge, the Kiddush cup glistens with a silvery sparkle, and the candle sticks tower above all. Shabbat is about to begin. Mother gathers the family round and lights the Shabbat candles, carefully saying the blessing and lovingly kindling the flames. Shabbat has begun.
This is the way a Jewish woman ushers in the holy Shabbat.
The owner of every Jewish home should see to it that candles are lit in honor of Shabbat. Women, as the true “master” of the home, are specifically charged with this responsibility. So, every Friday, slightly before sunset, women light candles in their home. If a man lives alone, he should light the candles.
Married women light two candles, one for themselves and one for their husband, adding a candle for every child that G-d blesses them with. Single girls, starting from the age of three, light their own candle in addition to the candle that their mother lights on their behalf.
Enhance the Joy of Shabbat
In year’s bygone, the only source of light was candles. Due to the prohibition of lighting fires on Shabbat, were there to be no candles lit prior to the onset of Shabbat, the family would end up eating in the dark and trip all over the house. This would diminish the joy of Shabbat, a matter the Rabbis were concerned of. So, they instituted that every Jewish homemaker should see to it that candles be lit before Shabbat comes in. This Rabbinic decree has the force of a Mitzvah from the Torah.
As the saying goes, “a little light pushes away a lot of darkness,” and as such, it’s ever more important in our darkening times to increase in light. The spiritual light that the Shabbat candle bears is a powerful tool to fight the moral and spiritual darkness that unfortunately dominates the world around us.
This also lends deeper insight why women are given this unique responsibility. Women are the ultimate torch bearers of humanity, as they give the world the gift of the next generation.