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candle lighting on Erev Shabbat


Rabbi David Sperling

Iyyar 23, 5772
In Jerusalem I understand that we have an extra 18 minutes on Friday’s before the "real" start of Shabbat as opposed to other locations where the Zemanim are calculated without these extra 18 minutes. What does it really mean as far as accepting the restrictions of Shabbat? Does it give 18 extra minutes and these are only a Chumra? Or is for example lighting 18 minutes after the announced Jerusalem Zeman Chilul Shabbat? This is a weekly argument discussion in our home and I would appreciate an explanation that makes sense and holds water. For example next week Shabbat here in Jerusalem is 18.52 - is it ok to light at 19.10 or even at 19.28 (Shkia I think is at 19.31). Thank you from "Confused in Jerusalem"
Shalom, Thank you for your question. I certainly hope this is not a cause for "a weekly argument" - and will try to spread some light on the issue. Candle lighting on Friday night must be before sunset - allowing enough time to light the candles, and add a little bit of time to the Shabbat from the weekday. Most cities have a set custom and announce candle lighting times - e.g. 30 minutes, or 20, or 18 minutes before sunset. These times are the times one should ideally light the Shabbat candles. This was established so as to ensure that women who light candles would not get close to lighting at sunset, or afterwards, which would be breaking Shabbat. One should make every effort to encourage the candle lighter(s) in their household to light at this time. [Encouragement involves you helping in the Shabbat preparations, but does not involve getting angry at people, and certaintly not raising one's voice]. The custom in Jerusalem is to light 40 minutes before sunset. Though some Rabbis dispute this custom, and claim that even in Jerusalem the custom is only 20 minutes before sunset, the overwhelming practice, certainly amongst Ashkenazi Jews, is 40 minutes. As I said, you should make every effort to light then. If this time was missed, one may (and must) light candles afterwards - but no later than sunset, or roughly 30 minutes or so after candle lighting time in Jerusalem (this is 10 minutes before sunset, so as to be on the safe side - after all how accurate is the clock, and our exact sunset for each separate locale?). What does this mean in relation to accepting Shabbat, and refraining from forbidden Shabbat activities? For those who do not light candles themselves (most husbands and children), candle lighting does not usher Shabbat in, and they are free to continue in weekday mode until they accept Shabbat, either through the Shabbat prayers (Lecha Dodi), or when the sun sets (really a few minutes before that so as to add a little to Shabbat from the weekday - and to be on the safe side as to when sunset really is). So they may do labour until they pray the Kabbalat Shabbat service, or until just before sunset (taking into account my advice above not to run it too fine). For those who do light the Shabbat candles (usually the lady of the house), the normal practice is to usher Shabbat in with the act of candle lighting. There are exceptions to this rule, and sometimes even the person lighting the candles does not accept Shabbat with the act of lighting - but the normal practice (of Ashkenazim) is that the candle lighting starts Shabbat for the one who did the lighting. This being so, they may not do any more wekday labour. They may however, ask someone who has not yet accepted Shabbat to do labour for them. I hope this sheds some "light" on the laws of Shabbat candle lighting. Blessings
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