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    Women and Shabbat candles – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. I always thought women lit the Shabbat candles for positive reasons – because the candles bring light and joy to the home, and it is the woman who is regarded as the bringer of light and joy. But someone told me that it is to make up for Eve’s transgression that the candles are lit by women. How can this be?

    Shabbat Shabbos candle lightingA. Women have had the mitzvah of kindling the Sabbath lights for at least 1900 years: Mishnah Shabbat 2:6 threatens serious consequences if a woman neglects the practice.

    In the G’mara (Shabbat 32a), Rashi quotes a Midrash which says that Eve’s sin caused death to enter the world and thus “put out the light of the world”, since King Solomon said, “The soul of man is the light of the Lord” (Prov. 20:27; cf. Gen. 2:7). The Jewish woman who lights Shabbat candles is thus said to be making up for Eve’s sin.

    But the more positive view is that it is the woman who usually contributes the emotional and spiritual flavour to the home and says (or implies), in the words of one of the meditations often used on Friday evening, “May the holy and beautiful influence of the Sabbath ever abide with us… As I kindle these Sabbath lights as signs of joy and devotion so may Thy light be kindled within us”.

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