The Shabbat candles are lit every Friday evening at the start of Shabbat – the Jewish Sabbath and day of rest. In the Torah, the Jewish Bible, it tells the story of Creation: God works for six days and rests on the seventh, and thus the Jewish people work for six days and on Shabbat, the seventh day, they rest.
The Creation story also describes each day with the words, “it was evening and it was morning, the first/second/third/etc day”. So in Judaism days start in the evening, and Shabbat runs from Friday evening until Saturday evening. Shabbat is traditionally very important in Judaism, and is a chance for the family to be together, enjoy each other’s company, reflect on the week, and enjoy a celebratory meal which is preceded by a short ceremony to welcome Shabbat into the home. This involves lighting two candles to represent the two slightly different versions of the commandment of Shabbat in Exodus and in Deuteronomy: (i) to remember it, and (ii) to keep it holy.
Some families have the custom of adding an extra candle for each child to symbolise the light children bring into the world. After lighting the candles, the meal starts with Kiddush (thanksgiving recited over wine) and eating special bread, challah.
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