• March 22, 2023

Background to the Mitzvah of Hadlakas Neiros

Chiyuv to Light

  1. There is an obligatory mitzvah derabanan to light a candle for Shabbos (גמ’ שבת דף כ”ה ע”ב, רמב”ם פ”ה שבת ה”א). Both men and women must have a candle lit in their homes for Shabbos, but it is the baal habayis’s responsibility to ensure that this happens.
  2. Brachah. Chazal also established a brachah for this mitzvah: “אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להדליק נר של שבת” (שו”ע סי’ רס”ג ס”ה).

Reasons for the Mitzvah

  • There are multiple reasons given for this mitzvah; these have practical ramifications, especially today. Therefore, it is important to know the reasons for the mitzvah, as will be explained (next issue).
  • Oneg Shabbos. The main reason for the mitzvah is for the enjoyment of Shabbos (תוס’ שבת דף כ”ה ע”ב ד”ה הדלקת רמב”ם פ”ה שבת ה”א): it is enjoyable to have well-illuminated rooms in the house. Since oneg Shabbos is primarily where the seudah is eaten, we make a brachah on candles in the area the seudah is eaten (רמ”א ס”י).
  • Kavod Shabbos. Another reason for the mitzvah has to do with the honor of Shabbos. Some understand that this is about the function of the candles, i.e., it is an honor to Shabbos to be in an illuminated house (רש”י שבת דף כ”ה ע”ב ד”ה חובה). Others understand that the presence of candles is inherently an honor to the Shabbos, similar to the presence of candles at an important seudah or a chuppah even if they are not needed for their light (או”ז הל’ ערב שבת סי’ י”א ד”ה ומי, שו”ת אגרות משה או”ח ח”ה סי’ כ’ אות ל’, פוסקי זמנינו).
  • Shalom bayis. An additional reason is because of “shalom bayis” (שבת דף כ”ג:). Some understand that the idea is to create peace between a man and his wife – sitting in the dark causes discomfort and is not conducive to shalom bayis (רמב”ם פ”ד חנוכה הי”ד, יראים סי’ תכ”ט). Others understand “shalom bayis” in this context to be a borrowed term, that it really refers to “peace within the house,” i.e., we need light in order not to bump into things in the house and to prevent unpleasant occurrences which can cause a person distress (רש”י כ”ה:, מרדכי סי’ רצד).

Who Lights?

Men and Women

  • Men, women, and boys and girls over bar/bas mitzvah age are all obligated in this mitzvah (שו”ע רס”ג ס”ב). However, one member of a household lighting is enough for everyone to fulfill their mitzvah.

Woman’s Mitzvah

  • Although men are also obligated in the mitzvah, it was entrusted to women since they spend time in the home and are involved in taking care of the home (רמב”ם פ”ה שבת ה”ג, שו”ע סי’ רס”ג ס”ג). Another reason is because it was a woman [Chava] who extinguished “the candle of the world” when she caused Adam HaRishon to be subject to death through the sin of the Eitz HaDaas (ב”ר סו”פ י”ז).
  • Husband sets them up. Still, it is proper for the husband to set up the candles (מג”א סק”ז בשם שער הכוונת להאר”י, מ”ב סק”ז). There is a text he can say as a tefillah while preparing them (מבעל פלא יועץ).
  • Husband lighting. If a woman cannot light, e.g., she is not home; she is sick, ר”ל; or she gave birth ב”ה, her husband lights the candles with a brachah even if there are girls above bas mitzvah in the home (שו”ת באר משה ח”ח סי’ ס”ז, שו”ת שרגא המאיר ח”ו סי’ קכ”ז אות ב’, הגר”ח קנייבסקי, ארחות שבת פל”ג אות ו’ הע’ ח”י).
  • Wife is running late. If a man sees his wife is late to light and it is getting close to shekiyah, it is an important mitzvah for him to light the candles instead of her. Even if this upsets her, it is more important to avoid potential chillul Shabbos (מ”ב סי’ רס”ב סקי”א).
  • Daughters light. If the parents are not home, one of the daughters above bas mitzvah should light since they are responsible for taking care of the home (הגרשז”א, שש”כ פמ”ה הע’ ל”ד). If there are only sons, one of the sons should light.

Brachah Before or After Lighting?

Woman Lighting

  1. Some poskim say the brachah is made before lighting, as all brachos on mitzvos are made before the mitzvah [עובר לעשייתן] (הוזכר ברמ”א ס”ה). Others say the brachah is said after lighting because saying the brachah is a form of taking in Shabbos, after which one may not light (שם). Indeed, women make the brachah after they light since they take in Shabbos with their brachah. Still, to somewhat fulfill the concept of saying the brachah before the mitzvah, a woman should not benefit from the light until after the brachah; we will elaborate on this below (23).
  2. No interruption between lighting and brachah. Because they say the brachah after lighting, women must make sure not to speak from when they begin to light the candles until after they finish the brachah so that the brachah covers all the candles. We also find this concept by netilas yadayim before a meal: from the moment one begins to wash his first hand, he should not speak before making the brachah (ארחות שבת פל”ג אות י”א, נחלת צבי סי’ קנ”ח אות מ”ז).
  3. Yom Tov. Since there is no issur to light a candle on Yom Tov, even women should make the brachah before lighting to fulfill the concept of making the brachah before the mitzvah – this is the primary minhag of women (מ”ב סקכ”ז).

Man Lighting

  1. When a man lights Shabbos candles, e.g., his wife is not home or he is a yeshiva bochur, since he does not take in Shabbos when he lights, he should say the brachah before lighting (באה”ל ס”ה ד”ה אחר ההדלקה).

Customs Pertaining to Hadlakas Neiros

Showered and Wearing Shabbos Clothes

  1. Showered. Women customarily shower before hadlakas neiros (מ”ב סי’ רס”ב סקי”א). In the winter, when the days are short [this past week daylight savings time ended in Eretz Yisroel] and they might not have time to wash their whole body, they should at least wash their face and hands (רמ”א סי’ ר”ס ומ”ב סק”ב).
  2. Shabbos clothes. Women also wear their Shabbos clothes when they light (מ”ב סי’ רס”ב סקי”א). Nevertheless, if they are running late, it is better to light in weekday clothes [and certainly without putting on makeup…] than to enter into a situation of potential chillul Shabbos ח”ו (מ”ב שם).
  3. Tzedakah. It is good to give tzedakah before lighting (קיצור שו”ע סי’ ע”ה ס”ב).

Start from the Right

  • When lighting Shabbos candles, one should start lighting on the right side and then move to the left. This is like other mitzvos that we go to the right first (לבוש וט”ז לענין חנוכה סי’ תרע”ו הובא בבאה”ל שם ס”ה), e.g., going to bimah for an aliyah, bringing the sefer Torah to the bimah, daled minim, and the like. If the leichter are arranged in a circle, one should start on the right and continue leftward in a circle (מקור חיים לחו”י סוף סי’ רס”ג). [This is different than Chanukah candles, where some say (שו”ע שם ומ”ב סק”ט) to light from left to right since on Chanukah there is significance to lighting the candle that was added that night.]

Extinguishing the Candle Used to Light the Neiros

  • Based on the minhag most women have to say the brachah after lighting (above, 13), technically a woman may extinguish the candle or match she used to light the Shabbos candles after she finishes lighting and before she makes the brachah. At that moment, she still has not taken in Shabbos (ערוך השלחן סי”ד, תורת שבת סק”כ).
  • Nevertheless, some refrain from extinguishing the candle. Instead, they give it to someone else to put out, throw it down to the ground, or put it down somewhere it will go out on its own. They do this either to satisfy the opinion that holds that a woman takes in Shabbos when she finishes lighting or to maintain consistency between Shabbos and Yom Tov – on Yom Tov, when a woman says the brachah and then lights (above, 15), she may not put out the candle after lighting (הגר”ש וואזנר, קובץ מבית לוי חי”א עמ’ ל”ו).

Covering the Candles and Eyes with the Hands

  • Because women make the brachah after lighting, they do not benefit from the light until after the brachah as a semi-fulfillment of making the brachah before the mitzvah (above, 13). There are different ways of accomplishing this.
  • Covering the candles. Some women use their hands to cover the candles and prevent themselves from seeing their light until they finish the brachah (רמ”א שם).
  • Covering the eyes. Most women cover their eyes with their hands until they finish the brachah (קצות השלחן סי’ ע”ד סקי”ט), or they close their eyes while saying the brachah and only open them to benefit from the light afterward (כף החיים סקל”ד).
  • Waving the hands and covering the eyes. Many women wave their hands in front of the candles three times and then put their hands over their eyes while they say the brachah (תוספת שבת הל’ יו”ט תקי”ד כת”י, דברי חכמים אות רכ”ה). Although we have not found any reason for this, the posuk says “Do not forsake the teaching of your mother” [understood to mean one should not change minhagim].

Tefillah after Lighting

  • Women customarily daven during and after lighting the candles that Hashem should give them sons who shine with Torah, based on the posuk “A mitzvah is a lamp and Torah is light.” A tefillah said while doing a mitzvah is more readily accepted (רבינו בחיי פ’ יתרו י”ט, ג’, מג”א סקי”א, מ”ב סק”ב).

Tenai Not to Take In Shabbos by Lighting

Does a Tenai Work?

  • We mentioned (above, 13) that women take in Shabbos when they light the candles or when they say the brachah afterward (רמ”א ס”י). After that, there are several activities they may not do, e.g., melachah, davening Mincha, or eating/drinking, among others.
  • Nevertheless, the poskim argue whether a woman may stipulate when lighting that she is not taking in Shabbos. Some say she cannot do so, as there is no clearer way of taking in Shabbos than making the brachah on the candles (רבינו פרץ). Others say she can stipulate that she is not taking in Shabbos by lighting (מהרם רוטנברג).

Situation of Necessity

  • On occasion and if necessary, a woman may light Shabbos candles with a tenai, i.e., she resolves to herself that she is not taking in Shabbos by lighting. But she can only do this if she has a need for it, since lechatchila we satisfy the opinion that one cannot make a tenai (מ”ב סקמ”ד). When a woman lights with a tenai, she should make the brachah before lighting since she is anyway not taking in Shabbos with her brachah (חיי אדם, רע”א הובא בבאה”ל ס”ה ד”ה אחר). We will go through some examples.
  • To daven Mincha. Lechatchila, a woman should daven Mincha before hadlakas neiros, as once she takes in Shabbos, she cannot daven a weekday Mincha (מ”ב סקמ”ג). Still, when she lights, she can stipulate that she is not taking in Shabbos, and she can then daven Mincha if she will still have some time for tosefes Shabbos (חוט שני ח”ד פפ”ג סקי”א). This is considered a valid need if it only happens once in a while (א”א בוטשאטש, הגרשז”א, שו”ת מנחת שלמה ח”ב סי’ לה אות ח).
  • Some say if a woman has no other choice, she may daven Mincha after hadlakas neiros even if she did not make a tenai (שו”ת מנחת יצחק ח”ט סי’ כ’, שו”ת באר משה ח”א סי’ ט”ו).
  • Eating, drinking. After lighting, a woman may not eat or drink; since she has taken in Shabbos, she must hear Kiddush first (ב”ח הובא במ”א סי’ רע”א סק”ה). Still, if she is hungry or thirsty and will need to eat or drink, she can light with a tenai and then eat a bit afterward (קצות השלחן סי’ ע”ד סקי”ז, שו”ת באר משה ח”ח סי’ ס”ד אות ה’).
  • If she did not make a tenai and is desperate, she may make Kiddush without her husband [and without Shalom Aleichem and Eishes Chayil…], wash, and say Hamotzi. There is no halacha that she needs to wait for her husband, especially if she needs to eat; we are sure her husband will understand. Of course if she feels very weak, she may drink something without saying Kiddush.
  • Driving to parents for the seudah. If the night seudah will be somewhere that it is easier to get to by car, a woman may light at home and stipulate that she is not taking in Shabbos until she gets to her destination and may then go in a car, as this is considered a need. She must be very careful to get to her destination before the time for hadlakas neiros so she does not even come close to chillul Shabbos ח”ו.
  • If she did not stipulate that she is not taking in Shabbos, she certainly may not get into a car after lighting even if her husband opens the door, etc. This is in contrast to those who suggest doing this rather than relying on a tenai – there is no greater disrespect to Shabbos than that (ארחות שבת פל”ג הע’ ק”א). These people end up transgressing and causing others to transgress; they forbid what is permitted and permit what is forbidden.
  • Going to the Kotel. Sometimes, a woman wants to go to the Kotel by car after lighting to daven by the remnant of our Beis Hamikdash. Some say this is not enough of a need to allow making a tenai (מנחת שלמה ח”ב סי’ ל”ה אות ח’). However, in our weak generation, if a woman will gather lots of strength and inspiration from davening by the site of the Beis Hamikdash, that is a strong enough need to enable her to light with a tenai and travel by car (שו”ת צי”א ח”י סי’ י”ט, עי’ מש”כ גליון ח”ח גליון 5 אות ב’), but she must make sure not to get into any situation of potential chillul Shabbos ח”ו.

Penalty for a Woman Who Forgot to Light

  • If a woman forgot to light Shabbos candles, she must light one extra candle [in addition to the ones she lights every week] for the rest of her life. This penalty is meant to make her more careful with the honor of Shabbos (מהרי”ל, רמ”א סי’ רס”ג ס”א). E.g., if she normally lights four candles, from then on she must light five (מ”ב סק”ז).

The Extra Candle

  • Only in her house. She only needs to light the extra candle when she is home. If she is a guest somewhere, she does not need to light the extra candle even if she usually lights more than two candles when she is away from home as well.
  • Anywhere in the house. The extra candle can be lit anywhere; it does not specifically need to be next to the other candles (ארחות שבת). This way, the woman can spare herself from embarrassment.
  • Yom Tov. She only needs to light the extra candle for Shabbos, not Yom Tov. Also, if a woman forgot to light Yom Tov candles, she does not get the penalty of lighting an extra candle for the rest of her life since she can light on Yom Tov itself from another flame (הגר”ש וואזנר, קובץ מבית לוי ח”ב עמ’ י”א).

Situations Where There Is No Penalty

  • Electric light. In the next issue בעז”ה, we will cite the custom today of also turning on electric lights in honor of Shabbos at hadlakas neiros. Some say that even if a woman forgot to light candles, if the electric lights in the house were turned on in honor of Shabbos she does not get the penalty of an extra candle since there was a light turned on in honor of Shabbos (הגריש”א). If she did not turn on the light in honor of Shabbos, she gets the penalty.
  • Husband lit a candle. If a woman forgot to light candles but her husband or another family member lit even a single candle, she does not get the penalty since the main mitzvah can be fulfilled with the husband lighting a single candle. Therefore, if a man knows his wife always lights at the last minute and is liable to forget, he should make sure every week to light at least one candle, thereby sparing himself and his wife from unpleasantness.
  • Oneis. If a woman didn’t light due to something out of her control, e.g., she was in the hospital or the delivery room or she was sick in her house, she does not need to light an extra candle (מ”ב סק”ז).
  • Not considered oneis. If a woman was busy taking care of the home or preparing for Shabbos until the last minute and did not get a chance to light, that is not considered an oneis and she gets the penalty. Also, if a woman went to sleep and woke up after shekiyah, that is not considered an oneis since it is common to oversleep. However, if she set an alarm clock and did not wake up, that is considered an oneis.
  • If a woman was mistaken about the zman of hadlakas neiros, that is considered an oneis and she does not need to add a candle. If she did not light because she did not know the zman, that is negligence and she must add a candle. Therefore, a woman and her family members must know the zman for hadlakas neiros each week. It is advisable to have it written in a prominent spot in the house and they should also announce in the house when the zman is, especially in the winter, when Shabbos comes in early.

Zerachya Shicker is the translator for the English version of חוקי חיים. The Chukai Chaim is a halacha sheet in a league of its own. Started in August 2016 (Av 5776), the Chukai Chaim currently has a readership in the tens of thousands across the globe.

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2 replies on “Hadlakas Neiros of Shabbos – 1”

  • Yisrael
    November 5, 2021 at 1:03 pm


    • Zerachya Shicker
      November 10, 2021 at 8:22 pm

      My pleasure!