Obligation to Light Shabbat Candles


When did the “command” to light the candles for shabbat and the moedim begin? Where is it written?



  1. The earliest source for lighting Sabbath candles is in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 25b. “Rav said that lighting a lamp (ner – candle, light) for Shabbat is an obligation.” This is codified by the Rambam in the beginning of the fifth chapter of the Laws of Shabbat in his monumental work the Mishnah Torah.

    Rashi comments on the Talmudic statement that “in a place where there is no lamp there is no Shalom (peace, and peace of mind), since a person will trip over things and will be walking around in the dark.” The Rambam explains that the obligation of lighting a lamp for Shabbat is in order to honor the Shabbat, just like setting the table and cleaning the home.”

    Lighting candles is one of the seven mitzvah decrees that were introduced by the Rabbis. They can be found at the end of the Sefer HaChinuch (attributed to Rabbi Aharon HaLevy). They are:

    (i) Lighting Channukah lights
    (ii) Lighting Shabbat candles
    (iii) Reading the Megillah on Purim
    (iv) Washing hands before eating bread
    (v) The various different Eiruvim (Combining Domains on Shabbat)
    (vi) Reciting Brachot, such as over food, smelling fragrances and going to the bathroom etc.
    (vii) Reciting Hallel

    Although a person fulfills the obligation of lighting Shabbat candles by lighting just one, the accepted custom is that at least two are lit. Why two? The Sages explain that one represents the word Zachor, Remember, and the second represents the word “Shamor”, Guard. In the first set of the Ten Commandments that are found in the Torah Hashem used the word Zachor, in the second set He used the word Shamor (the differences in language are to do with the spiritual level of the Jewish People before and after the sin of the Golden Calf).

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team