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How does Holiday candle-lighting differ than Shabbat candle-lighting?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Holidays » General Information » Holiday Candles | Subscribe | What is RSS?


There is a fundamental difference between Shabbat and the holidays. On Shabbat it is forbidden to kindle -- or even handle -- a flame. On holidays, however, certain creative activities which are associated with food preparation, such as lighting a fire from a pre-existing flame, are permitted.

Therefore, whereas it is imperative that Shabbat candles be kindled on Friday afternoon before sunset (see How early, or how late, can I light the Shabbat-candles?), for afterwards it is forbidden to light a candle, on Jewish holidays things are a bit different:

On the first night of a holiday the candles should be lit before sunset (similar to Shabbat candles)1. However, if one forgot to (or couldn't) light candles at that time, she can light the candles any time before the holiday meal.2  Shabbat always takes precedence over a holiday, and therefore, if a holiday falls out on Shabbat, then the normal Shabbat rules apply; the candles cannot be kindled after sunset.

On the second night of a holiday,3 the candles must be kindled after nightfall, also from a preexisting flame. Unless the second night of the holiday is Friday night, in which case the candles must be lit on Friday afternoon before sunset.

To find exact candle-lighting times for any Shabbat or holiday, for any location in the world, go to

Following are links for the proper candle lighting blessings: Shabbat, Holidays, High Holidays.


  • 1. This is in order not to get confused about proper candle lighting time, and to usher in the holiness of the holiday a little earlier.
  • 2. When lighting after dark you must light from a pre-existing flame. A Yahrtzeit candle or the pilot light of your gas stove work great as pre-existing flames.
  • 3. This only applies to the Diaspora where there are two nights of Holidays. With the exception of Rosh Hashana there is no second night of a Holiday in Israel.


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Shabbat » Candle Lighting
Women & Judaism » Women's Mitzvot » Candle Lighting

(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.