Shabbat, the Sabbath, and Jewish holidays all begin with the kindling of lights in the home. By lighting candles, we emulate God, whose first act of creation was making light, and we reveal the hidden light by welcoming in Shabbat, a day-long taste of the Garden of Eden, of the Messianic Era of harmony and peace.
Traditionally, candle-lighting has been a special role for Jewish women, but it may be done by anyone in the household. You can purchase special Shabbat candles, but any type of candle may be used, including oil lights. You can seek out environmentally friendly, non-toxic Shabbat candles. Usually, two flames are lit, one for “keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:12) and one for “remember the Sabbath day” (Exodus 20:8), but some choose to add additional lights for each child in the family. They are lit 18 minutes prior to sunset, or more organically, as the setting sun lights up the treetops. The traditional choreography is to light the candles, then circle the flames three times with your hands, as if drawing the light of Shabbat into your heart, mind, and soul. With eyes covered, say the berakhah, which can be found on this page with the words for all the Shabbat eve blessings.
Featured Image: Shabbat Candles, by slgckgc via Flickr