Bride Wearing a Veil/Waving Hands When Lighting Shabbat Candles

Question

Why do women wear a veil and why are they waving their hands 3 times?

What is the biblical explanation of this ritual?

9 months

Answers

  1. Prior to the Chupah (wedding ceremony) it is customary to cover the bride’s face with a veil. In most communities the groom (Chatan) is escorted to the bride amid singing and dancing, and he places the veil over his bride. The apparent source for this custom is from the Torah. We see in Genesis that when Rebecca was brought to marry Isaac, she covered her face, or was covered by Isaac. It is customary to keep the veil on throughout the ceremony and raise it only for the wine drinking. After the Chupah, it is either removed or folded backwards.

    In addition to the above reason, we are told that when Jacob married his first wife he thought it was Rachel, but Laban gave him Leah. Jacob did not notice this at the wedding as Leah was covered with a thick veil. We therefore have the custom that the husband covers the wife with her veil, that way ensuring he knows who is under there.

    I assume that you are asking about when women light the Shabbat candles, why they wave their hands three times. It is actually a fascinating question and over the years I have not been able to find any source for the universal custom of waving one’s hands before lighting. When I asked my wife why she did it’ she said because her mother does! And when I asked my mother-in-law, she said because that is what her mother did!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team