Kenneth Cohen

Shabbat Candles

The structure of the various commandments of the Torah, contains 613 Mitzvot, where 248 are positive and 365 negative. In addition, there is a separate category of Rabbinic Law, that is known as, “The seven positive Rabbinic Mitzvot.”

These seven laws have a different standing, than other rabbinic law. They are on a level slightly below Torah Law as these were established and accepted in ancient times.

Aside from having the stamp of the Sanhedrin, some go back to the time of King Solomon. The celebration of Purim and Chanukah, are among these laws, as is the commandment to wash before eating a meal, and making 100 blessings each day. Shlomo Hamelech instituted “Eiruv,” and it was also ordained to recite full Hallel, eighteen times a year in Israel.

The seventh rabbinic commandment was for women to light Shabbat candles every Friday night, as well as before various festivals. There is a hint to this from Parshat Tetzaveh.

The beginning of the Parsha instructs Aharon, the Kohein Hagadol to light the Menorah, so that there be a “Ner Tamid,” an eternal light in the Temple.

The Baal Haturim noted that the word, תצוה, “to command,” is equal in Gematria to, נשים צוה, “that women were commanded.” This is a hint to candle lighting on Shabbat. The Baal Haturim even recommends that just as olive oil was used to light the Temple Menorah, it is the choicest way to light Shabbat candles.

For many Jews, their Shabbat observance only consists of lighting Shabbat candles. Although, ideally, Shabbat should be fully observed by all Jews. But, nevertheless, these candles represent a connection with our traditions that began thousands of years ago, that has allowed us to continue as a people during our long and bitter exile.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at