I love that time where I gather my family around the Shabbat candles, I light the candles and then together we recite the blessings. Growing up in an Orthodox household, and being female, I did not go to shul on friday night. Instead I lit the shabbat candles with my mom and waited for the men to return from synagogue. It was a time when the ladies sat and chatted and yes..colored our nails! Since then I have experience there is something very holy and special in that moment when we greet the Shabbat formally. The name Shabbat derives from the Hebrew word lishbot, which means to cease. To stop. Not to rest as some may think. Since the seventh day was the day that God stopped from creating, that’s the day which we, the Jewish people, are commanded to stop from working, from creating, and therefore this day became known as the Sabbath, as some refer to it is the day of rest. What does rest mean to you? Does it mean just sleeping in? Does it mean going shopping? For me neither one is really the answer. For me the Sabbath is where I tune in to higher purposes of my being. To connect with other people, and to nourish my soul. The Sabbath is not only celebrated because God rested on this day, but also because God blessed that day and sanctified it. And that is what we do with the Mitzvah of Shabbat, which, by the way, is the fourth of our 10 Commandments. The commandment of shabbat is mentioned twice in the Torah. One in Exodus 20:8 and the second in Deuteronomy 5:12. In the first, it is said “remember the Sabbath day,” and in the second it is said “guard the Sabbath day.” What do you think are the differences between remembering and guarding ? Between zachor and shamor? And why isn’t only one sufficient? What does shamor add to zachor?
Is remembering enough by itself?
Shabbat candles have long been the symbol of Shabbat, even though, in truth, they are the very last act before bringing Shabbat into our home. The candles are lit before Shabbat because one may not kindle a flame on the Sabbath. In Jewish tradition lighting Shabbat candles ensures peace in the home for the Sabbath evening. And even if today there is electric lights and one may not need necessarily to light candles, our rabbis declare it a mitzvah as we still do that for the special feeling as it adds to the sanctity of our Shabbat setting.
One tradition that many women do is after the candles are lit and the blessing is recited, it is customary to say special prayer asking God to watch over the family and special people in your life. This is the time for a private conversation with God.
Here is a prayer that many women do around the world:
May it be your will, God and the God of my ancestors, to be gracious to me into my spouse, to my children and to all my family. Make our household complete, with your divine presence dwelling among us. Make me worthy to raise children and grandchildren who are wise and brighten the world with Torah and goodness. Please hear our prayers for the sake of our matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah and ensure the brightness of our souls will never be muted. Show us the radiance of your visage and we will be saved. Amen!
Here is the Bracha so you can study it on your own. Steps: Light the candles first. Using your arms bring the light into your space by doing three customary circling. Cover your eyes and recite the blessing. Do your silent prayer. Uncover your eyes. Your shabbat has begun.
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel shabbat.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has sanctified us with commandments, and commanded us to light Shabbat candles