One of the most common ways to know when Shabbat or a Jewish holidays starts is to look for candlesticks that have been lit around sunset. The lighting of Shabbat candles is an ancient custom that still continues to this day, via the lighting of candlesticks.
Shabbat Candlesticks are usually made of metals such as pewter, nickel and silver. However, they also are made from stained glass, crystal, lacquered wood and ceramic. Sterling silver is the most valuable material used in candlesticks - gold is almost never used because of its fragile nature as well as the fact that gold is easily damaged.
Candlesticks can be decorated with a wide range of decorations, from depictions of Jerusalem to being molded into the shape of a Star of David, Hamsa or Shofar. Silver, nickel and pewter candlesticks often feature diamond and floral patterns as well as traditional moulding along its bottom edges and legs.
Lacquered wood candlesticks are usually decorated with paintings and features a wide range of decorations, such as Jerusalem, flowers, seven species and animals such as birds. Other materials such as ceramic features Armenian stytle flowers and come with a tray that has word “Shabbat” in the middle in Hebrew and English.
Glass candlesticks can be stained, frosted and shaped as well as moulded like metal candlesticks. Glass candlesticks come in a wide range of shapes, although they are usually moulded into traditional shapes such as Hamsas. These candlesticks also frequently sport traditional Hebrew texts including the text of the candlestick blessings and the Eshet Chayil section of the Book of Proverbs sung on Friday night.
Use of Candlesticks
The tradition of women lighting candles at the beginning of Shabbat and Jewish Holidays comes from the commandment to enjoy Shabbat and holidays. Jewish Legal authorities recognized that it is difficult to enjoy such day when one cannot see, so they established a custom to light candles so that the holidays as well as Shabbat will be more enjoyable. Over time, the custom became an established rule and eventually a Mitzvah that is almost exclusive to women.
The accepted tradition in regards to lighting candles is that an unmarried girl or woman lights two candles, each of which represent the positive and negative commandments on Shabbat. Married women usually light the number of candles equal to the members of their family. After lighting the candles, the girl or woman makes a blessing over the candles that is followed by a short prayer.
Candlesticks also come in a wide range of sizes, ranging from small sized travel candlesticks that measure approximately 5 centimeters to full-sized candelabras that are between 20 and 40 centimeters in height.
For More Information
Candles play a pivotal role in Judaism. We use candles to bring in the major holidays; the entire eight days of Hanukkah involve lighting the Menorah candles, which explains why the holiday is also known as the Festival of Lights; finally, and most commonly, we use candles on Shabbat, both at the beginning, on Friday night, and at its departure, on Saturday night. We also light candles on Jewish holiday. Due to the candles’ essential role, it is customary to invest in beautiful Shabbat candlesticks in order to maximally venerate the Shabbat Queen. It is a Mitzvah to beautify the Shabbat with lovely candlesticks and other synagogue items such as Tallitot adorned with a stunning Atara.
Although the inherent religious value lies within the candles and not the candlesticks, the latter allow for much artistic freedom and personal preference. The candles are lit by the woman of the household, and she is commanded to light only two, one to “remember” and the other to “keep” the Shabbat. One of the advantages of buying Shabbat candlesticks is that they can be found in abundance everywhere, not solely in Judaica stores. Candlesticks are a great gift for a Bat Mitzvah.
Sterling silver Shabbat candlesticks are always a popular choice. People seem to be extremely fond of sterling silver Judaica for different reasons. For example, perhaps since silver has been in use for such a long time, it feels almost nostalgic, as people may have seen it at their own grandparents’ when they were younger.
Another, sometimes less expensive, option that lately inundates the Judaica market are the wooden candlesticks. These come in an assortment of colors and shapes, and they are known for the colorful design. The lacquered candlesticks are often based on a certain motif, such as the seven species, floral, and more. These are great as an addition to an already-colorful havdalah set.
For the mystically-inclined, there are candlesticks that evoke spiritual figures in the Torah or bear esoteric inscriptions. For example, some stunning Shabbat candlesticks are shaped like Cherubs, a type winged angles. Cherub-shaped Shabbat candlesticks will have two cherubs vis-a-vis, and since the Cherubs used to manifest in different forms, the artists have a lot of freedom to be creative when shaping the angelic figures. Some of those candlesticks will also have Hebrew letters and inscriptions etched on them. Although at times the end products’ details are not entirely in line with the Biblical source, they nonetheless make for beautiful pieces of art.
Since there is such a wide selection of candle holders from which to choose, experience has taught us that buyers will often not end up with the items they initially wanted, but with something they fell in love with as they shopped around. We recommend, then, to be open-minded when shopping for candlesticks. Additionally, if buying candlesticks for a Havdalah Set, we advise you to think about the set as a whole, and which candlesticks will be the best fit for it. Be sure to contact us with any questions regarding candlesticks.