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What is the significance of Shabbat candles?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Shabbat » Candle Lighting | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Light.

And light is a blessing. As the Midrash1 says “‘And G-d blessed the seventh day’2 – with what did he bless it? With the Shabbat Candles”.

The first Jewish woman to light Shabbat candles was the first Jewish woman: Sarah. Sarah's Shabbat canldes would miraculously remain lit from one Friday afternoon until the next. When Isaac saw that the candles of his new wife Rebecca exhibited the same miraculous quality, he realized that he had indeed found a worthy successor to his righteous mother.3

Their candles might not burn anymore, but their light still shines, as millions of Jewish women in every generation kindle the Shabbat candles every Friday before sunset.

Our sages tell us that diligent observance of this Mitzvah is a Segulah for having children who will be Torah scholars. (Mothers, don’t fret! This doesn’t mean that they have to be rabbis, they can have an ordinary job and still be Torah scholars…)

Shabbat candle-lighting is not mandated by Biblical law but the rabbis instituted this mitzvah for several reasons, here are two:

1) Light up the Shabbat: We are commanded to honor (kavod) the Shabbat, and to have pleasure (oneg) on this day of rest.4 Candles create an ambiance. Lighting Shabbat candles is a symbol of the respect we have for the Shabbat and it also contributes to the pleasurable ambiance of the Shabbat meals.

2) Light up your Soul: On Shabbat, a special extra soul – the Neshamah yetairah – is conferred upon every Jew. A soul is compared to a candle – “the candle of G-d is the soul of Man”5 – and in honor of this soul we kindle a special Shabbat candle.

Start lighting Shabbat candles and learn more about this special mitzvah by following this link: http://fridaylight.org/page/index.php

Footnotes

  • 1. Midrash Bereishit Rabbah 11:2.
  • 2. Genesis 2:2
  • 3. Rashi on Genesis 24:67.
  • 4. Maimonidies laws of Shabbat 30:1
  • 5. Proverbs 20:27

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Women & Judaism » Women's Mitzvot » Candle Lighting

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Midrash
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Sarah
First Jewess, first of the four Jewish Matriarchs, wife of Abraham--the first Jew. Lived in Mesopotamia, and then Canaan, in the 19th century BCE.
Isaac
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Rebecca
Second of the Jewish Matriarchs. Wife of the Patriarch Isaac, and father of Jacob. b. 1675 BCE, d. 1553 BCE.
Segulah
An act which is a harbinger of something beneficial.
Neshamah
The soul of a Jew. This soul belongs to anyone who was born to a Jewish mother or converted according to the dictates of Jewish Law. The soul is a spark of G-d Himself.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.