DIY Shabbat Candles
You will need:
- A length of wick
- Honeycomb beeswax
Honeycomb beeswax candles are easy to make without many materials or much mess. The wax is pliable and easy to work with, and doesn’t need melting. You can buy it in sheets at a craft store, and it’s often available in lots of different colors. Aside from that, all you need is a length of wick.
- 1. Cut the wax sheet (scissors should work fine for this) to the length you’d like.
- 2. Place a length of wick along one edge of the sheet.
- 3. Starting with that edge, fold the wax tightly around the wick and roll it tightly till you reach the other side
- * Press the edge lightly so it adheres to the rest of the candle.
- 4. Cut off the wick at the bottom, and trim it at the top—there you have a basic candle.
In the Book of Genesis, the process of creation begins with God declaring, “Let there be light.” By lighting candles, we begin Shabbat in the same spirit. As the flames catch fire, we signal the formal beginning of Shabbat, marking the separation between the busy week behind us and the day of rest ahead.
Lighting candles is a major Jewish ritual act—we kindle light to begin important holidays or to mark the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Lighting a candle can be seen as an act of exploration, illuminating what is unknown or unnoticed. Some theologians compare the bright light of burning candles to the metaphorical “light” of knowledge that comes from reading Torah. And lighting a candle in the darkness is a powerful symbol of hope.
In biblical times, Shabbat light was kindled by way of oil lamps. But since the light itself is more important than the object that is lit, today we typically use candles. Just about any kind of candle can be used (you can even use non-standard ones, like those that float in a bowl of water), but they should last long enough to burn through the end of the meal. Traditionally, this had a practical application: since no fire can be kindled after Shabbat begins, in the days before electricity it was important to light candles that would burn throughout the evening. Today, the easiest to use are white utility candles, which can be found inexpensively in many supermarkets. As for candlesticks, they can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like.
It’s traditional to light the candles shortly before sundown, in the same room where you will eat the Shabbat meal. Though it’s really only necessary to light one candle—just enough to provide light at the table, according to the Talmud—it’s customary to light at least two, signifying the unity that exists between things that are often seen as opposites (like men and women, body and soul). Many people light more than two candles—often, one is lit for each member of the immediate family, and in the Sephardic tradition, a candle is lit for each day of the week. An easy way to personalize this ritual is to light a candle for every person who attends your Shabbat gathering, or you can light candles in any number that’s particularly symbolic for you.
Strike a match and light each candle. Then draw your hands around the flames and back towards your face in a circular motion a few times. This motion ushers in Shabbat, inviting light and warmth to fill the room and surround the people in it.