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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 7.4:
Why are there 18 minutes from the time candle lighting starts on Shabbat until the last time you can light?

Answer:

In classic Halachic literature, Shabbat begins at sundown. The 18 minute custom arose for various reasons that include the following:

As a result of this, the custom developed to light candles some specific amount of time before sundown. In the United States, the 18 minute custom was almost (but not quite) universally accepted because the first printed calendars in the US were printed by Rav Henkin, and marked candle lighting 18 minutes before sundown. Most calendars in most cities in the US follow that format today.

Note: While one can/should bring Shabbat in early with the lighting of candles, Shabbat begins at sundown even if candles have not been lit. For traditional Jews, at that point candle lighting would be forbidden.

Note that other cities may have different customs. In Jerusalem, the custom seems to be to light candles 30 minutes before sundown. In Chicago Illinois, the custom is 20 minutes.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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