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Should an unmarried woman light one or two Shabbat candles? I have seen both practices, but it seems that only little girls light one candle and that a grown-up woman lights two although she is not married. (I light two following the logic of "shamor and zachor".) I know a married woman lights two.

  • Actually, the common practice is for adults to light at least 2 and 1 for each family member, in total. (I.e. if you have 4 children, you light 6, not 8.) – DanF Aug 19 '15 at 20:54
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    One for Shomer and one for zachor,but one is sufficient if one only has that – sam Aug 19 '15 at 20:58
  • Also, a lot of people light an an additional one for any times they missed. – WhyEnBe Aug 19 '15 at 21:26
  • In very frum communities, it is typical for unmarried women to light one, no matter their age. – SAH Dec 14 '15 at 22:52
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The most common custom is that there is no special duty for a single girl to light Shabbos lights at all. If anyone but the married woman of the house is lighting, the tradition is to light two. Including if a wife isn't home and the husband is lighting. Or your case.

The Lubavitcher rebbe invented the practice of all girls lighting. It hasn't been going on long enough to be qualify as a "minhag", yet. Rabbi JB Soloveitchik advised families that knew their family minhag not to leave their minhag.

As for making a berakhah, for Sepharadim -- the Shulchan Arukh (OC 263:8) would not let someone who is adding light to a room that is already lit make a berakhah. For example, if two families are sharing a dining room, the second person to light shouldn't make a berakhah. So the mother would have to light first, and then the daughter would light without a berakhah. For Ashkenazim -- the Rama disagrees, and allows a berakhah when lighting additional lamps in an already lit room. So, the daughter can make a berakhah in this situation.

(Side note: ideally, one should turn on the electric lights in the dining room as well, so that one is making a berakhah on the lights actually being used for the meal. But because of the above, an Ashkenazi can make a berakhah on the Shabbos candles either way, it's just less than ideal to only make the berakhah on the additional light and not the primary light source.)

Others raised the topic of how many lights should be lit when it's the wife or someone else lighting for an entire household: two, or the minhag of one per person, possibly plus a "fine" of one for each week missed until now.

If you do not know your minhag, I would advocate for just lighting for Shamor and Zakhor. I would like to see the other custom disappear entirely, frankly. I think of the childless wife who passes by the window seeing 8, 9, 13 candles, and feeling pain. Or the mother who lost one of her children, who starts her Shabbos with a sad reminder.

  • Thank you very much. I live alone, so no one can do it for me. Plus, my family is secular, so, sadly, minhag is not to light at all... In my community, there is no minhag to light for every child, I think it will never be minhag, and I definitely won't start it once I have children. – Ana Aug 20 '15 at 22:28
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    You're welcome. Well then, the answer (as I hope was clear from what I wrote earlier) is that anyone making Shabbos for themselves lights. If you are invited out for dinner and will be leaving before it's dark enough for the candles to help, you should light at home candles that are long enough to be lit when you get back. Since I don't want to be responsible for burning your house down, maybe light them in the middle of your stovetop? – Micha Berger Aug 21 '15 at 1:51
  • I light them in a metal tray, placed on a another tray :D – Ana Aug 21 '15 at 9:29
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    actually the minhag of lighting at age three is a much older minhag. It fell out of practice due to hardship and the cost of obtaining candles. The Rebbe merely brought it back. Starting to light at age three is similar to when a young boy gets a haircut and starts wearing kippah and tzitzis. It marking a transition in life of moving from being a baby to being a child. – Dude Dec 16 '15 at 1:44
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With candles, their's a large variety of customs, so this is only a partial answer.

Until marriage, girls light one candle.

http://m.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1221742/jewish/Do-Young-Girls-Light-Shabbat-and-Holiday-Candles.htm

This is from the lubavitcher Rebbe. Unfortunately, I can't find the exact source of the article, but I heard the Rebbe said to do it that way to make a distinction between the lighting of an unmarried person and a married person.

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    I'm not sure that this is the generally accepted custom outside of Chabad. Ultimately, the actual requirement for both married women and single folk is only to light one, but I think the custom is generally to light two (or more) regardless of your marital status. This all assumes the single person is not living in their parents' home, in which case they don't have to light at all (and I think that is the specific case where Chabad has the additional custom to light one candle, as opposed to zero for non-Chabad). – Fred Aug 19 '15 at 23:28
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    In general, see OC 263. – Fred Aug 19 '15 at 23:30
  • Just to clarify my above comment, I meant "otherwise" instead of "in which case." If you live at home with your parents, you don't have to light candles (except for the Chabad custom to light one anyway, if I recall correctly). If you live on your own, you do. – Fred Aug 20 '15 at 5:33
  • @Fred Mainly chabad light candles when the child's able to (like 2 or 3 years old, I'm not sure if the Rebbe spoke about a specific age); although some others do it also. The op even mentioned little girls lighting. – user613 Aug 20 '15 at 7:14

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