High Voltage Shabbat

Question

Hi, can you settle a debate I have been having with some of my friends? Is it permissible to ‘light Shabbat candles’ using electric bulbs? If so, would you be able to say the blessing? Thanks and Shabbat Shalom.

2 weeks

Answers

  1. Brilliant question! Two reasons are given for lighting Shabbat candles: Shalom Bayit (peace in the home) and Oneg Shabbat (delight of Shabbat). It’s hard to experience Shalom Bayit while stumbling over furniture, or Oneg Shabbat while eating in the dark. By filling the home with light, Shabbat candles promote harmony and peace, and they make the food more enjoyable!

    Although the widespread custom is certainly to use only wax candles or oil lights with wicks, some rabbis say that you may use electric lights and even recite the blessing over them, since they add to Shalom Bayit and Oneg Shabbat the same way as candles.

    Some authorities, however, differentiate between battery-powered lights, such as flashlights, and those that run on electricity generated from a power plant. Battery-powered lights are all right since they contain ‘fuel’ – i.e., the battery – which is right there when you light it. Regular lights, on the other hand, have no ‘fuel’. Rather, the electricity is ‘piped’ in from the outside; and furthermore, the electricity doesn’t really exist yet – it’s being created every second at the power plant. In a sense it’s like lighting a wick with no oil. It’s known about Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of blessed memory, that once when he was in a hotel and unable to light candles, he ‘lit’ a flashlight and made a blessing over it.

    I hope this answer sheds much light on this topic and that you have a Shabbat filled with peace and delight!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team