Shabbos Candles and the Psukim Behind Them – A Halachic Analysis

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times

Posted on 12/01/17 | From YWN

They are called, “asmachtas” – Biblical allusions to future Jewish practices or Rabbinic enactments in the form of verses from Tanach. And in regard to lighting candles, there are quite a number of them. There are four – ranging from verses in Bereishis to Yishayahu to Eicha and Iyov.


In Eicha (3:17) Yirmiyahu states, “And my soul is far off from peace..” The Gemorah in Shabbos (25b) cites a statement from Rabbi Abahu – that this verse refers to the lighting of candles for Shabbos. Rashi explains that since they had no means in which to light a lamp – there was no peace since everyone bumps into everything.


The Gemorah further (Shabbos 34a) quotes Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi who cites a verse in Iyov (5:24) that states, “And you shall know that peace shall be in your tent.” Rabbeinu Chananel and the Gaonim write that this is the actual source for the Mitzvah of lighting Shabbos lights. Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi states that the Mishna’s ruling that a person must mention three things to do on Erev Shabbos comes from this verse.


The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba 11) gives us another Biblical allusion (Bereishis 2:3): “And Hashem blessed the seventh day.” Rabbi Elazar says that He blessed it with the lighting of the Shabbos lamp. The Midrash states that Rabbi Elazar states that Hashem placed blessing within the Shabbos lamps. He states that an incident in this regard occurred to him. Once he lit on a Friday and at the end of Shabbos – no oil was used up.


The Midrash Tanchuma cites the verse in Yishayahu (58:13), “And you shall call the Shabbos a delight.” This refers to the lighting of the Shabbos lamp. The language of the Midrash Tanchuma is that the obligation is a Biblical one.


The Midrash Tanchuma is not the only source that understands the lighting of Shabbos lamps to be Biblical in origin. The Sefer Yereim (429) states that it is a halacha from Moshe at Sinai. This is understood to be of Biblical origin. Rav Yechezkel Landau in his Tzlach (Shabbos 45b) writes that it is biblical.
The Talmud Yerushalmi (2:1) clearly learns that it is Rabbinic. The Rambam as well (Brachos 11:3 and Shabbos 30”1-5) clearly learns that it is Rabbinic as do most Rishonim.


There are, in general, three reasons that are brought down for this Mitzvah. The reasons cited in the Rishonim and Acharonim are honoring Shabbos, taking delight in Shabbos, and to maintain Shalom Bayis especially on Shabbos.


Even though it is a Rabbinic enactment according to most authorities, it still behooves us all to appreciate the Torah verses that allude to this beautiful halacha and all the reasons that are behind it. We are to honor the Shabbos with the lighting from before Shabbos, we are to delight in Shabbos on the Shabbos itself, and we are to ensure that we maintain the Shalom Bayis that allows our homes and our children to thrive.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com