Shabbat candles, and the candles we light for Jewish holidays, are a fixture of Jewish life and Jewish design. They feature especially prominently on challah covers, and are used here for a tzedakah jar. But why do we light Shabbat candles? Early rabbinic teachers derived the practice from the prophet Isaiah’s call to make Shabbat a delight. Here’s an excerpt from Isaiah:
…If you call the sabbath “delight,”
The Lord’s holy day “honored”;
And if you honor it and go not your ways
Nor look to your affairs, nor strike bargains–
Then you can seek the favor of the Lord.
I will set you astride the heights of the earth,
And let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob–
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 58:13-14 – Tanakh, New JPS Translation)
The rabbis reasoned that we can’t enjoy Shabbat if we’re bumping around in the dark. So we add light.
There is a tradition of donating a few coins for tzedakah just before lighting Shabbat candles, so I added a set of appliqued candles to the Shabbat evening scene in the tzedakah jar sewing pattern in the Sew Jewish book.
I have to admit, when I realized that the concept of “delight” is associated with actual light, it was kind of, well, illuminating.