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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q7.7 TOC Q7.9 >

Question 7.8:
Why do women wave their hands three times before lighting Shabbat [or Holiday] candles?

Answer:

This is just a custom. The halacha is that one should cover one's eyes before lighting. Why? The blessing for a mitzvah is supposed to preceed the mitzvah. However, you can't make the blessing on lighting Shabbat candles before lighting , for once you make the blessing it's Shabbat, and you are no longer allowed to light the candles. So, you cover your eyes so that you start /using/ the light only after the blessing.

Waving your hands three times beforehand is a kabbalistically derived custom. According to the Zohar, the human soul has five levels: three are internal and comprise your individual self [the power to live (nefesh); the mind/will (ru'ach), and the spirit (neshamah)]; two are external and refer to things outside your self (chayah (from the word "alive") and yechidah (singular)). This custom involves the internal aspects of the soul. To accept Shabbos into one's entire self, one needs to prepare body, mind, and soul—nefesh, ru'ach and neshamah. With each wave of the hands, one should consciously take a deep breath and try to feel the atmosphere of Shabbos touching another aspect of your being.


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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