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בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אַדֹנָ-י אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל שַׁבָּת
Transliteration: Baruch a-ta A-do-nay Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam a-sher ki-di-sha-nu bi-mitz-vo-tav vi-tzi-va-noo li-had-leek ner shel Sha-bat.
Translation: Blessed are you, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the Holy Shabbat.
Origin and Reasons
The first woman to light Shabbat candles was our Matriarch Sarah. According to Jewish tradition, Sarah would light the Shabbat candles on the eve of the Shabbat, in the famous tent she shared with Abraham, and the candles would miraculously burn from one Friday to the next. Thus the pleasant sight of Sarah's candles greeted the many guests that visited Abraham and Sarah's tent throughout the week.
When Sarah passed away, the flames on her Shabbat candles were extinguished. A few years later, when Isaac saw that the Shabbat candles of his prospective wife, Rebecca, had the same miraculous ability to continue burning throughout the week, he understood that she was Sarah's righteous successor, and he wed her happily.
Our Sages implemented the lighting of Shabbat and holiday candles for several reasons.
Peace in the Home: Shabbat and holidays are intended to be peaceful oases in our chaotic lives. We illuminate our home so that we should not stumble in the darkness, something which would have a decidedly un-peaceful effect.
Honoring the Day: We add light in the home to honor the Shabbat Queen.
Pleasure: To fully enjoy the Shabbat delicacies, one must be able to see the food—which requires a well-lit room.
The mystics explain that Shabbat is the day that brings illumination to our world, which so often seems to be dark and negative. Furthermore, candles are a metaphor for Torah and for the human soul. The candles represent the light we introduce into the world through studying Torah and observing its precepts. And they also represent the "additional soul" with which, our Sages explain, we are endowed on Shabbat.