Ask The Rabbi

Hand Wave

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Candles, Shabbos, Waving Hands After Lighting

Email@Withheld wrote:
Dear Rabbi,

I have noticed the custom that when ladies light candles Friday afternoon they wave their hands in front of their eyes (3 times I think) before they cover their eyes. What is the reason and source of this custom to wave before making the blessing? Thanking the Rabbi....


Dear Email@Withheld,

The basic idea is that one shouldn't benefit from the Shabbat candles until after saying the proper blessing. Thus, those who say the blessing after lighting should hold their hands up to block the light until after saying the blessing. If you light many candles and can't block all the flames by simply holding up your hands, you should cover your eyes.

The "Noheg Katzon Yosef" (first printed in 1718) mentions the custom to make a circle around the candles with the hands before reciting the blessing; however, the reasons for this circling are unclear.

Sources:

  • Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 263:5 - Rema
  • Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.)


 
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