Friday, November 13, 2009

Hadlakah - Lighting Shabbat Candles

Shabbat Shalom!

Bereishit 24:67 And Yitzchak brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother; he married Rivkah, she became his wife, and he loved her; and thus was Yitzchak consoled after his mother.

Rashi notes that as long as Sarah was alive a lamp was lit from one Shabbat eve to the next; the benediction was made over the dough (which she kneeded); and a cloud hovered over the tent.  When she died this all ceased, but when Rivkah came everything began once again.

And a fourth blessing Sarah brought to Avraham's house...their doors were always open wide since she always gave generous alms to the poor.

These three hallmarks of Sarah's tent correspond to the three main duties of the Jewish wife:  to light Shabbat lights (hadlakah), to separate challah from the dough, which assures a blessing from above (challah), and to observe the laws of purity of conjugal life (taharat hamishpacha).  They draw the presence and protection of the Divine Majesty which hovers invisibly over the home as in a column of "cloud over the tent."

Hadlakah (lighting; kindling)

The Sages set forth three reasons why we light Shabbat candles.  First, for peace and harmony in the home (shalom bayit); second, to honor Shabbat and third, to create pleasure.

Our sages tell us that the moments of Shabbat candle lighting are a time of teshuvah, of returning to our spiritual source.  With the flames in front of us, our hands covering our eyes and our focus turned inward, we reflect upon what went right or wrong in the past week and evaluate whether life is leading us in the proper direction.  We ask ourselves whether we are on a path lit by truth, or whether we are still in the dark.  Torah itself is compared to light, because it is the ultimate source of direction and clarity. Thus the Shabbat candles connect us intimately to Torah.  When a Jewish woman lights candles on Friday evening she aligns herself with Torah's eternal order and harmony.  From this place of profound connection, she gains the ability to bring the same clarity to her surroundings.

The candle (ner) symbolizes our neshamah (soul), our intellect, our personal shalom bayit (peace in the house).  Without this light we cannot see, there is no clarity, no relationship to other objects in the room, just as spiritually, without light (Torah), we don't have the clarity to know which path to take that leads to Hashem.  So, the Shabbat candle helps us to not only see physically but also represents a spiritual 'seeing' that is obtained through Torah out of sincere kavanah (feeling) towards learning and living as instructed.

Only then will we experiece true shalom bayit, as both our physical and neshamah will be pulling together to lead us in the same direction....towards the Torah's way..towards HaShem Elokeinu, Baruch Hu.

In the atmosphere created by our candles, we are free to meditate on our common goals as Jews and to experience the repose of peace and harmony that is uniquely Shabbat. By refraining from activities of the week and by bringing G-d into the picture, we acknowledge that we Jews share a belief and
a way of life according to Torah, which is the basis of our identity as a people.  We see others united by virtue of their business or hobbies, but this bond is based only on common interest, rather than timeless values.  The Jewish woman promotes the essential cohesiveness of the Jewish Nation each time she lights.

As bearers of light, women draw down from above the spiritual clarity of Shabbat, and then disseminate it throughout the week to come. The candle light of Shabbat expresses the inherent peace of the individual and collective Jewish soul.  It is no wonder then that candle lighting is a woman's obligation, since it is she who unifies and creates peace in her household.

On this day, at the behest of the Torah, we are to refrain from all productive activity. For this one day we relinquish our domination over the world and its resources. This is why the Hebrew name of this day is Shabbat, which does not mean "rest" but "cessation of activity." On this day we, so to speak, restore the world to G-d, and thus proclaim, to ourselves and to others, that our life in this world has higher, spiritual aims.

Preparation for lighting the Shabbat Candles

Place candles on the table where you plan to eat dinner, or in a prominent place where you can see them from the dinner table.

Single women may prepare either one or two candles.  A married woman generally prepares two candles.  She may add an additional candle for each of her children.  (Young girls of three or older, who are capable of
understanding the concept of Shabbat, can be provided with a candlestick and taught to kindle Shabbat lights.)

Some have a custom of putting a few coins in a charity box ("pushke") prior to lighting.

It is important to light your candles on time.  Candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset every Friday. Young girls should light just prior to this time.

Click the following link for candle lighting times in your area:

Procedure for lighting Shabbat candles

1)  Light the candles.  Next, spread your hands in a circular motion around the candles, drawing your hands inward towards yourself each time to indicate the acceptance of Shabbat.

2)  Cover your eyes and recite the following blessing:

Baruch atah HaShem Elo-heinu Melech Ha-olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Shabbat.
Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the light of the Shabbat.

3)  Uncover your eyes and look at the Shabbat lights.  At this time, you may wish to add your own words of prayer or thanksgiving.

A woman should light the Shabbat lamp with joyous heart and with pleasure, for it is a supreme honor for her. It serves as a source of great merit for her to be blessed with holy sons who will be a source of light to the world in Torah knowledge and fear of G-d,and will bring more peace into the world. She also thereby causes her husband’s lifetime to be prolonged. For all of these reasons, she should be meticulous in the lighting of the Shabbat lamp. (Zohar: Bereishit).

Some people prepare two wicks [or candles] for the Shabbat lamp, one corresponding to the commandment “Remember the day of Shabbat,” and the other corresponding to the commandment “Observe the day of Shabbat.” 

The Tur states that the Beit Yosef and the Kolbo quote the Tanchuma on this matter which states,

“All the matters of the Shabbat come in pairs, e.g. two lambs are offered at the Holy Temple as an additional offering for the Sabbath, the Psalm of Shabbat uses the repetetive wording - “A song, A hymn for the Sabbath day” (Psalms 92), and a double portion of Mann descended for Shabbat. Therefore, we also light two lamps (Tur Orach Chaim 263).
Our sages, with their unique gift for epigram, expressed in the Passover Haggadah the fact that the Sabbath contains the sum and substance of Jewish life and thought in the words:

"If G-d had not brought us to Har Sinai and had only given us the Shabbat, it would have been enough."
It would indeed have been enough, for Shabbat epitomizes the whole of Judaism.


Source Commentaries:

Call Of The Torah - Chayei Sarah, Rabbi Munk
MeAm Lo'ez - Chayei Sarah - Rabbi Culi
Women in Judaism.  The Jewish Renaissance Center - .
The Sabbath: A Guide to its Understanding and Observance

Life of Sarah - Chayei Sarah

Parashat Chayei Sarah
Bereishit 23:1 - 25:18
Haftarah 1Melachim 1:1-31

Life of Sarah
(Picture is burial of Sarah)

Bereishit 23:2 Sarah died in Kiryat-arba which is Chevron in the land of Kena'an; and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to bewail her..

Kiryat-arba, the old name for Chevron.  Why does Torah give the original name since it immediately adds the name, Chevron, normally used?  Rashi explains that the word arba refers either to the four giants living there or to the four couples (Adam & Chavah, Avraham & Sarah, Yitzchak & Rivkah, Ya'akov and Leah) buired there.  The Zohar, however, sees in the name kiryat-arba a reference to the four letters of the Divine Name (i.e., the Tetragrammaton).  Just as Aharon, Miryam, and Moshe all expired by the Divine kiss, Sarah too died innocent and pure, in "the enclosure (kirat = city, surrounding wall) of the four" letters of the Ineffable Name.

The Torah stresses in verse 19 that Sarah died in the land of Kena'an and was buried there.  This detail can give us the explanation of why she died in Chevron.  She had lived in Be'er-sheva and no explanation is given for her moving from there.  However, one can see why her death and burial should have taken place in Kena'an and not in Be'er-sheva, which was located in Pelishti (Philistine) territory.  Indeed, it was essential for the future of the Jewish people that the tombs of the patriarchs be situated in the Promise Land.  Throughout the centuries of history, in all the lands of the dispersion, they represented the eternal symbol of the homeland and the rallying point for the whole nation.  And so, Sarah's move to Chevron, where she died, was an act of Providence.  Avraham would have had no valid reason for wanting to buy the cave of Machpelah from the sons of Chet had Sarah died in Be'er-sheva and not in Chevron.


Mishma Dumah Massa

Bereishit 25:12 These are the descendants of Yishma'el, Avraham's son, whom Hagar the Mitzrian, Sarah's maidservant, bore to Avraham.  13 These are the names of the sons of Yishma'el by their names, in order of their birth: Yishma'el's firstborn Nevayot, Kedar, Adbe'el, and Mivsam,  14 Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa,  15 Chadad and Tema, Yetur, Nafish, and Kedemah.  16 These are the sons of Yishma'el, and these are their names by their open cities and by their strongholds, twelve chieftains for their nations.  17 These were the years of Yishma'el's life: a hundred and thirty-seven years, when he expired and died, and was gathered to his people.  18 They dwelt from Chavilah to Shur - which is near Mitzrayim - toward Ashshur; over all his brothers he dwelt.

It is customary to read the verses containing the names of Yishma'el's sons each day as part of the Ma'amadot.

Each verse teaches us a lesson:

Mishma Dumah Massa

If one hears (mishma) people insult him but remains quit (dumah), all his sins will be lifted away (masa).  His reward will be Chadad Tema Yetur Nafish Kedmah - He will become very sharp (chadad) in his knowledge of the Torah, and he will be able to speak of its (tema) mysteries.  G-d will keep (yetur) him and make his name as great (nafish) as the sages of old (kedmah). (Imrey Noam)

Rambam speaks of the Moslem oppression of the Jews at the end of his Epistle to Yemen (Igeret Teyman).  He quotes this verse containing the names of Yishma'el's children and explains, "Our Sages enjoin us to bear the treachery of the Yishma'eli and their lies with indifference.  This they derived from the verse which names the children of Yishma'el.  The names mean shema dom vesa (listen, be quiet, and bear it)."

Yishma'el's sons were very famous; they founded great, fortified cities, and dominated the broad area between Chavilah and Shur, and Baghdad, in what was the land of Assyria.  Thus, G-d's promise to Avraham regarding Yishma'el (21:13) was fulfilled.

Because Yishma'el went to the trouble of coming from the desert to attend Avraham's funeral, he deserved the names of his sons to be written in the Torah. (Yafeh Toar p. 371)

Yishma'el died in the year 2171 (1590 b.c.e.).  According to Rashi, Yishma'el's lifespan is given in order to make a connection with the years which Ya'akov lived.  Ramban adds that our Sages gave other reasons as well (Rabbah 62), but that the essential motive is the fact that Yishma'el had repented and became tzaddik.  Consequently the Torah gives his lifespan just as it does for other tzaddik.

"Over all his brothers he dwelt"...literally, "he fell."  The next verse begins, "And these are the offspring of Yitzchak."  This teaches you that when Yishma'el falls at the end of days, only then will the history of Yitzchak commence, under the reign of the Mashiach (Baal HaTurim).


MeAm Lo'ez - Chayei Sarah - Rabbi Culi
Call Of The Torah - Chayei Sarah, Rabbi Munk
Baal HaTurim