• Home
  • Parashah Insights
  • Ask the Rabbi
  • Festivals & Fasts
  • Articles
  • Books
  • About
  •  

    Shabbat candles – B’ha’alot’cha

    Shabbat candlesSince the weekly portion opens with kindling the lamps in the sanctuary (Num. 8:1-2), let us address the broader issue of the lights in the mikdash me’at – the “minor sanctuary” which is the home.

    Who introduced Shabbat candles?

    The Mishnah chapter Bameh Madlikin – “What is used for the Sabbath light” – indicates that the Sabbath lamp has ancient origins.

    This is not identical with our practice of ritually kindling two or more lights regardless of how light the home is otherwise.

    The ancient Sabbath lamp lit up the home and provided Oneg Shabbat (“Sabbath delight”), as against the sectarian view that because the Torah tells us not to kindle a fire on the Sabbath we must sit in the dark.

    Though everyone has to make the home well-lit, the woman of the house has the special responsibility for the Sabbath light.

    Medieval people often had a candle with two wicks representing the two commands, “Remember” and “Observe”, which led to the practice of kindling at least two lights.

    In normal circumstances, a Jewish person may not remove the candles even if they have gone out. Separate rules govern what to do in the event of a fire.

    The question arises of what the Shabbat candles signify. They symbolise the additional soul that the day brings.

    In some Reform communities they kindle the lights in the synagogue.

    Apart from the problem of timing, since the mitzvah applies at the onset of Shabbat (actually 18 minutes earlier) and lighting in the synagogue is generally later time when Shabbat has already commenced, there is the matter of principle.

    Judaism is in peril if the home is void of Jewish observance and all is focused on the synagogue.

    Comments are closed.