Israel has a tradition from the days of Moses to kindle lights for the Sabbath (Pesikta Zutresa).
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said that God blessed the Sabbath by providing additional manna on Friday and He sanctified it with lights (Mechilta Yisro).
Rav Huna said that one who is scrupulous in the kindling of Sabbath lights will be blessed with children who are Torah scholars (Shabbos 23b).
A prime reason for the Sabbath lights is to increase the enjoyment of the day and avoid the strife that would be likely if members of the family were stumbling in the dark (Orach Chaim 263). The kindling has traditionally been the mitzvah of women although, if no woman is present, it is incumbent upon men to kindle Sabbath lights.
It is customary to recite a prayer after the kindling. because of Rav Huna’s declaration (see above), the prayer stresses the supplication that the children of the home grow up to be learned and righteous.
(Artscroll Zemiros and Bircas Hamazon)
THE CUSTOM OF ADDING ONE CANDLE FOR EACH CHILD
“The extra candles symbolize that each child brings his or her unique light into the world. Each child’s potential, even their very presence, makes the world a brighter place for everyone.”
The Shabbos candles on Friday night are not the only candles that a Jewish woman gets to light. Our Rabbis teach, “The candle of G-d is the soul of a person.” It is the woman who has the privilege of bringing children into the world and raising them, so that their “candles” may grow into strong and healthy, light-giving flames.
Therefore candle-lighting is an opportune time for mothers to pray for success in raising their children.
THE CANDLE LIGHTING PRAYER
The following is an excerpt of the accepted prayer:
May it be Your will, G-d, that You grace me and my husband to raise children who are wise and understanding and light up the world with Torah and good deeds. Please hear my supplication in the merit of our Mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.
THE MATRIARCHS AND SHABBOS
Our Matriarchs play a special role in the mitzvah of lighting candles. As we light the candles, we connect with their legacy. The realization that our life challenges are much like theirs makes the Shabbos candles even more meaningful. Just as they founded families committed to morality and goodness, so do we. Just as their lights were eternal, so we hope that our lights will symbolize the eternal legacy of the Jewish people.
So, as you light the Shabbos candles, imagine your ancestors doing the same. Experience the serenity that Shabbos brings. Recognize that it is the light of Shabbos that has kept the Jew alive throughout the ages, and it is the light of Shabbos that will ensure the stability of the Jewish home.
Blessing on Candle Lighting