My wife is going to be away for Shabbat in a few weeks. Am I supposed to light in her absence? Is there any difference between a wife and husband lighting?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
The obligation to light candles is binding on the entire family. In general, the wife lights because she is found at home more than her husband and because candle-lighting is one of the special obligations placed upon women (Shulchan Aruch 263:3, Mishnah Berurah 12). However, if a wife is away, the husband (or one of the grown children) should light. Note that your wife should also light where she will be staying.
There is one important distinction between women and men lighting. Women generally light the candles first, cover the flames with their hands, recite the blessing, and then uncover the flames (Rema 263:5). The reason they do this is because candle lighting is their acceptance of Shabbat. As soon as they recite the blessing, it is Shabbat for them – and they would no longer be able to light the candles! They thus light first and only then recite the blessing and accept Shabbat.
The reason they cover the flames is so that they can “enjoy” the light of the flames only after the blessing – so that the blessing is made prior to their using the flames rather than after. (In general, blessings on a mitzvah (good deed) are recited before performing the mitzvah.)
In this regard men are different. Men do not customarily accept Shabbat with lighting candles. They do so in the synagogue towards the end of the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer. Thus, men should light the candles as all mitzvot are performed – by first reciting the blessing and then lighting the candles (Bi’ur Halacha 263 s.v. achar). You can also put out the match as usual after lighting since it is not yet Shabbat for you.