When women light shabbat candles I often see them making hand gestures. These look like two or perhaps three circles around in the air. What is the source for this practice? Is it a law or custom? Is the candle lighting kosher without the gestures?

  • 1
    I recall something about bringing the light closer so the hand circles sort of beckon the light towards the face. But that might just have been something a Pre-K teacher told my kids many years ago.
    – rosends
    May 29, 2012 at 13:47
  • @Dan, even if it were from a pre-K teacher, it may be based on deeper concepts recorded in traditional sources.
    – Seth J
    May 29, 2012 at 14:25
  • @Dan, I learned something similar (though not from a pre-K teacher). I learned it as a custom of gathering the light, and that the motion is usually made three times. This is between lighting and blessing, and your eyes are closed at the time. May 29, 2012 at 14:32
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    – msh210
    May 29, 2012 at 15:42
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    Note: I read in Rabbi Reisman's book Pathways of the Prophets (artscroll.com/Books/9781422608937.html) that he looked into it and couldn't find any source or reason for it.
    – robev
    Aug 25, 2017 at 15:01

1 Answer 1


The principles are:

1) Tradition has it that women accept Shabbos when they say the blessing on the candles.

2) Blessings on mitzvos should be done before the mitzvo is performed.

See Kitzur Shulchan Oruch 75(4).

Because of (1), once the woman has said the blessing, it becomes Shabbos and she can no longer light the candles.

So what the women do is

  • to light the candles with a match.

  • blot out the light from entering their eyes.

  • then say the blessing.

    (Answer 1)

  • then with the hand movements they (so to speak) cause the light to
    enter their eyes.

This has always been my understanding.

(Answer 2)

But see the Chabad.org article procedure where the hand movements "usher in a special guest, the Shabbat Queen." After the third hand movement, the woman covers her eyes with her hands and recites the blessing.

I would like to know if there is any support for my first understanding.

  • 1
    Is this an answer or a question?
    – Double AA
    May 29, 2012 at 15:19
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    I think the first part actually answers a different question (why do women cover their eyes after lighting). I'm not familiar with the chabad source (ner shabbat ch. 13). but perhaps there is more information there as to why that motion and why 3 times etc. May 29, 2012 at 15:53
  • Yes @DoubleAA you're right - two answers and one question. The question is bottul berov. ;-) May 29, 2012 at 20:01
  • @tinokshnishbah Yes. The handmovements in answer 1 are connected with the question as to why women cover their eyes after lighting. May 29, 2012 at 20:04
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    Note this Chabad article chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/674406/jewish/… (since you're citing their website) says there's no source for this minhag in traditional sources
    – robev
    Aug 25, 2017 at 15:03

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