Plaited candles are not only beautiful but part of the havdalah ritual marking the end of Shabbat. In addition to blessing on wine and spices, we recite, “Blessed are You . . . who creates lights of fire”.
According to the Midrash, Adam feared the darkness of the end of Shabbat (Bereshit Rabbah 3:6). It was then that God gave him two flints to rub together, thus introducing fire to humanity. Every week, we celebrate this anniversary by thanking God for fire.
Placing our hands close to the flames and looking at our fingernails symbolises the help it gives us in our daily, often manual tasks. Havdalah is the beginning of the workweek, when our hands begin to be productive once more.
The use of a multi-wicked candle parallels the plural “lights of fire” which is said in the blessing. It is also a reflection on fire’s multifarious potential, whose power rests in our hands.