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I forgot to light Shabbat candles, what should I do?

by Rabbi Dov Grossman

  

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If you forgot to light the Shabbat candles before Shabbat, do not light them on Shabbat. The Shabbat candles, and for that matter any candle, may not be lit on Shabbat. Forgo the candles and observe Shabbat. Although Shabbat candles are a Mitzvah, they do not override the severe prohibition of lighting a fire on Shabbat. 

Jewish tradition requires one who forgot to light candles, to light an additional candle every week for all forthcoming Shabbat candle lightings.1   (I.e. a woman who normally lights two candles will henceforth be required to light three.)

The significance and value attached to the Shabbat candles will be remembered and will (hopefully) never be forgotten again
Numerous candles may be added. (I.e. if a woman forgot to light candles for a second week, she must begin to add two candles onto her original amount etc.)

If a woman is poor and cannot afford to add a candle each week, she may light a taller or a thicker candle instead.2

However, if a candle lighting was missed through no fault of her own, she is exempt from this requirement.3

The purpose of this custom is to remind women to be more scrupulous in the lighting of Shabbat candles. By adding another candle (for each neglected candle lighting), the significance and value attached to the Shabbat candles will be remembered and will (hopefully) never be forgotten again.4

  
 

Footnotes

  • 1. Ramoh - Orach Chayim 263:1.
  • 2. Eliya Rabba.
  • 3. Magen Avrohom, ibid.
  • 4. Magen Avrohom, Orach Chayim 263:3.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Women & Judaism » Women's Mitzvot » Candle Lighting

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.