We light at least two candles on Shabbat. The number two symbolizes the two mitzvot (commandment) of Shabbat which are Remember the day of Shabbat and Observe to make it holy. Many families light more than two candles… some light one for each of the parents and then one candle for each child. No matter how many candles are lit, the next step is to circle your hands across the top of the candles three times, washing the light toward yourself and then cover your eyes as you recite the blessing. Everyone can do this, it doesn’t just need to be the person who is actually lighting the candles. The reason we sweep our hands over the light towards ourselves is that true rest is the ingathering of our energy. For six days of the week, we are outward beings, investing ourselves in the world around us. During the workweek, we are pulled in all directions, and our frantic activities can drain our souls. On Shabbat we pull back, holding our energy in to regain focus and balance. After expending our powers outward all week, we physically sweep the light toward ourselves to draw our energy back inward to its source. The reason we sweep our hands three times is that on Shabbat our retreat from our busy life happens on three levels: action, speech and thought.
We also close our eyes before reciting the prayer and open them when we are finished. The reason for this is that it is overcoming a loophole of observant Judaism. Basically, a blessing is supposed to happen before you do the thing. Like you make the blessing over the bread and then you eat it. But you are not allowed to light a match on Shabbat, so you wouldn’t light the candle once the prayer is said. Tricky, right? So… the way it’s often done to solve this problem is that the candle lighter, (traditionally the woman of the home, but you be you) closes her eyes while she is saying the blessing so that when she opens her eyes she is enjoying the light for the first time. So, in a way the blessing precedes the act of enjoying the light. Another way to look at this is that closing our eyes is an additional tool to help draw our energy back to ourselves which is what we are supposed to do on Shabbat. The lighting of the candles is often the first part of bringing in Shabbat, so when we open our eyes and see the light, we are truly in Shabbat time and space.
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu l’had lik neir shel Shabbat. Amen.
Blessed are You, God, Spirit of the Universe who has made us holy with Your mitzvot and commanded us to light the Shabbat light. Amen.
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