Where do lighting Shabbat candles come from?

November 13, 2015

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, November 13, 2015.

Where do lighting Shabbat candles come from?

Interestingly, the blessing over the candles states that we are commanded “Lehadlik  Ner Shel Shabbat,” which actually says we’re commanded to light the “Sabbath Lamp” – not “candles.” The essence seems to be the light, not candles or lamps. Light is special. It is, after all, the first thing that God created  according to the account in Genesis! According to Isaiah, “If you call the Sabbath ‘delight,’ and the Lord’s holy day ‘honored... Then you can seek the favor of the Lord.” (Isaiah 58: 13)  And... how do you make the Sabbath a delight? According to the Rabbis, you make the Sabbath a delight by wearing nice (or even new) clothing, eating wonderful food, and making sure there is lots of light provided by the Sabbath lamp. There is a story in the Talmud that epitomizes this notion. (Shabbat, 119a)

Rabbi Yosi the son of Judah said, two ministering angels -- one “good” angel, and one "evil" (prosecuting) angel -- accompany a person home on Friday night from the synagogue.

When they arrive home, if they find a candle lit, the table set, and beds arranged nicely, the good angel says, "May it be G?d's will that next Shabbat be the same," and the evil angel is compelled to respond, "Amen!"

Otherwise, [if the home is not prepared in honor of Shabbat,] the evil angel says, "May it be G?d's will that next Shabbat be the same," and the good angel is compelled to respond, "Amen!"

May this winter Shabbat be full of light!

Shabbat Shalom