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.
Maria Bywater is the author of Sew Jewish available from Amazon.com and in PDF format from Etsy.