The Rambam in the thirtieth Chapter of Hilchot Shabbat writes that all the laws pertaining to Shabbat can be divided into four sections. Two of the four, “Zachor” commemoration of Shabbat and “Shamor” preservation of the uniqueness of Shabbat are mi’deorita. The other two, “Kavod” acts showing particular respect for Shabbat and “Oneg” things that create a sense of pleasure on Shabbat are of rabbinic origin.

In the first law of the fifth chapter of Hilchot Shabbat the Rambam writes “Lighting a candle for Shabbat is not optional …rather it is obligatory…as it is included in Oneg Shabbat”. On the other hand, in chapter thirty, law five, the Rambam writes “One should have a candle lit and a set table…as they are a part of Kvod Shabbat”. Why is it that the Rambam categorizes candle lighting in one place as Oneg and in the other as Kavod?

The Aruch Hashulchan (OC263) suggests that there is no contradiction since candle lighting can be considered as Oneg or Kavod in different situations. The purpose of lighting candles is to give light in the house, therefore one should have candles (or lights) in every room which is used on Friday night. The Aruch Hashulchan explains that candles lit in most rooms of the house serve just to give light and prevent injury, therefore those candles should be associated with Kavod Shabbat. On the other hand candles lit in ones dining room can be associated with Oneg Shabbat. When the Gemara Shabbat 25b states that lighting candles is an obligation, Rashi explains that since one must eat a special and significant meal on Shabbat and only a meal
eaten in proper lighting can be considered significant, candle lighting is obligatory for the purpose of a proper meal. (Though Rashi considers candle lighting as part of Kavod, Tosafot uses the same explanation in reference to candle lighting as Oneg) Accordingly, the candles can be seen as part of the Shabbat meal, which is clearly a form of Oneg Shabbat. By use of this reasoning, the Aruch Hashulchan concludes that candles lit in the dinning room constitute an Oneg Shabbat, while candles lit in other rooms constitute Kavod Shabbat.

Rav Chayim (Soloveitchik) of Brisk proposes a somewhat different approach. When we speak of candle lighting we are actually speaking of two different things. One is the act of lighting the candles. The other is having lit candles in order to give light. For the purpose of having light we need not necessarily light the candles before Shabbat as long as a candle is lit in order to illuminate the room. If, on the other hand, we want to signify that the candles are specifically for Shabbat, we would need to light the candles especially for Shabbat. Accordingly, says Rav Chayim, since we are lighting specifically to give us light on Shabbat, the act of lighting candles constitutes a fulfillment of the Mitzvah of Kavod Shabbat. On the other hand when we benefit from the light during Shabbat we have Oneg Shabbat.

Though when fulfilling all other acts of Kavod and Oneg we do not make a bracha, candle lighting, which was instituted by Chazal as an obligation, should be proceeded by a bracha.