I am making my giur and got a book from my teacher with all kinds of questions. In the chapter about lighting the candles I found one I am not able to answer:

It is reported about the Gaon of Vilna that he used to kindle many lights in honour of Shabbat. Give two explanations for his extraordinary custom.

I guess that the straight answer that he enjoys seeing the lights and that this seeing strengthened his feelings about the holiness of shabbat will not suffice as a correct answer. I also do not see (as far as my little knowledge tells me) any halachic obstructions and may be he had a lot of children although I guess that lightning a candle for each child is a rather modern habit?

So are there better reasons?

  • 2
    We lo ira, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for bringing your question here! I hope you get great answers to this question, and I hope you'll look around to see if there's other material that interests you, perhaps starting with some of our other great candle-lighting questions. May your giyur process be rewarding. If your studies generate other interesting questions, I hope you'll consider posting them here, too.
    – Isaac Moses
    Apr 25, 2017 at 16:05

2 Answers 2


The Hebrew Wikipedia article mentions kabbalistic reasons for lighting many candles. The Vilna Gaon was a master of kabbalah amongst other things:

שני לוחות הברית, מסכת שבת, פרק "אור תורה", פיסקה "סוד הדלקת נר שבת". "יש הנוהגים להדליק ל"ו נרות מטעמים קבליים. מנהג ותיקי ירושלים מעדת החסידים להדליק עשרה נרות על גבי מתקן מיוחד המורכב משלוש קומות. הקומה העליונה 3 נרות, הקומה האמצעית שישה נרות והקומה התחתונה נר אחד, וזה כציור השתלשלות עשר הספירות על פי הקבלה. ויש המוסיפים בכל נר פתילות באופן שבסך הכולל יהיו 26 פתילות כמנין שם הוי"ה. מנהג זה מיוחס לאדמו"ר רבי אלעזר מנחם מנדל מלעלוב".

The Sheloh Yeshaya Halevi Horowitz mentions a custom to light 36 lights for unspecificed kabbalistic reasons. The old Yerushalmi custom was to light 10 candles on a platform of three levels 3 on the top, 6 in the middle and one on the bottom and this represents the way in which the ten sefiros affect the world. And others add further wicks so that there are 26 wicks in total (equivalent to the numerical equivalent of the tetragrammaton) – this was the custom of one of the Rebbes of Lelov.

More prosaically, one is the minimum number of lights, two is a very widespread custom. More lights increases the happiness and feeling of wellbeing.

  • "a custom to light 36 lights for unspecificed kabbalistic reasons" - perhaps in honor of the 36 righteous people that sustain the world?
    – DanF
    Apr 25, 2017 at 17:36

One classical reason given for lighting Shabas lights is that it will enable you to see during the evening. (Citation needed.) As a conjecture, I propose that he lit many lights in order to see better and/or in a wider area of his home.


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