You are Blessed, O God, Spirit of the World, who makes us holy with mitzvot and commands us to kindle the light of Shabbat.
We are a Conservative family and use lights, drive our car to synagogue and friends' homes, etc ... on Shabbat. But when it's time to light Shabbat candles, we stop fussing in the kitchen and turn off all the lights in the room.
Our nine year old son stands next to his two younger sisters (ages four and two), who stand on dining room chairs they've pushed up to the counter where our five-branched Shabbat candelabra waits, with a smaller Shabbat candlestick holder on either side – one for each of our children over age three to light.
Our nine year old son and four year old daughter light their candles first, and there's always a little bit of fuss over who gets to help me light the family candles. We wave our arms in circles three times to bring Shabbat into the world, into our home, and into our hearts and then, together, recite the beracha.
Then each of us says what we're most grateful about from the preceding week. No matter how crummy the week has been, no matter what tensions we've been feeling, this helps create the transition into a Shabbat frame of mind and helps us realize that there is always good, even when there is bad.
We turn on the lights, sing songs to welcome Shabbat (that perennial toddler favorite "Shabbat is Here" and "Shabbat Shalom"), and our daughters jump into our arms, as we join hands with our son to dance around the dining room before sitting down for Kiddush, blessing the children, Hamotzi and our meal.
—Debra Nussbaum Cohen
When I light the candles at my home, my conscious intention, as I motion my arms in gathering circles, is that I am drawing the Spirit of God, the Light as many call it – represented by the candles in our midst – into certain areas:
The first encircling draws the Light into myself, so that I can be a bearer of the Light for others. The second circle draws the Light to my family and dear ones. The third circle is for my country and her needs. The fourth circle is for the whole world and all its occupants.
The fifth circle is for the Universe to reach its highest good. The sixth circle is for the Shehinah and all the angels who watch over us and help us, and for the dear spirits of my dear ones, to draw them into our presence for the Shabbat. The seventh circle is for God, to give appreciation and glory to the Presence of Light that has given us this Light, and Peace, and Shabbat. In doing these seven circles, and focusing my intentions as described above, I feel I am helping to allow the Shehinah to shine over all. I am happy to bask in that Light, and share it.
|—June Kozak Kane|
In our home, after we light the candles but before we say the blessings, we use our hands to wash the light toward each of us in turn, saying things like, "May your Light shine on Sammy...." The kids love to be recognized in this way. Then we cover our eyes and say the blessing together. We also use a series of special songs, like Juliet Spitzer's "Gather In" or Rayzel Raphael's "Movin' Into Shabbos Time."
|—Rabbi Margot Stein|