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When my eldest turned three her male cousin also turned three. Many of her friends and her cousin were getting Tzitzit. She asked for her own. We explained that boys wear TzitTzit and girls light Shabbat candles and therefore we adopted the custom of our three year old girls lighting one candle starting when they turn three. This worked (and continues to work) for us, however, where did this custom come from and why is it not prevalent?

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Does the three year old have their own house? Who cares how old she is –  Double AA 2 days ago

2 Answers 2

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There seem to be different views.

On the one hand Chabad are solidly in favour, see here. A reason is suggested why the custom is not prevalent.

On the other, Rabbi Eli Mansour at dailyhalacha.com says “…Therefore, the prevalent practice is that the unmarried daughters living in the home do not light Shabbat candles, and instead rely on the mother’s lighting. An unmarried girl who insists on lighting should certainly not recite a Beracha.”

Rabbi Elchonon Feldman of Belmont United Synagogue explains here that “whilst every family has different customs in regards to lighting the Shabbat candles, young ladies and girls all play a part in this Mitzvah.”

It’s a classic CYLOR.

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Why CYLOR and not, say, the Talmud? –  David Mar 17 '12 at 2:34
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@David: That would be a terrific question to ask on its own. I would surmise that halacha in general favors a contemporary rabbi's psak over a talmudic source, especially in cases of custom such as this one, but it would be interesting to have a full discussion, with sources. –  Avi Mar 17 '12 at 17:15
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@David Because as far as I know the Talmud doesn't say anything on the matter. –  Double AA Jul 22 '12 at 4:55
    
What exactly should we be COLOR's about? What we paskin is the real source of the minhag? –  Double AA Jun 11 at 20:24

The three varying minhagim that come to mind for this are: starting at 3, starting at bat mitzvah age, and starting when one is married.

Since I am most familiar with the minhag of age 3 which you have adapted that is the one I will explain... when one considers the importance of chinuch it makes sense that one should start before the age of bar mitzvah. Why age 3?

Three is considered a milestone in a persons life in which one becomes a child and children must be taught right from wrong as well as the traditions they will carry on throughout life. Successful enculturation (chinuch) must start when one transitions from infant-hood to childhood.

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How does this answer the question: "This worked (and continues to work) for us, however, where did this custom come from and why is it not prevalent?" –  Shokhet Jun 11 at 18:34
    
I'm curious for your sources that 3 is the age of Chinuch... I recall it being dependant on the complexity of the Mitzva and the maturity of the child. (And lightinig fire at age 3 sounds rather dangerous to me.) –  Danny Schoemann Aug 11 at 7:23

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