Yitro: Women’s Candle Power
We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine. — Dwight L. Moody
Among the Ten Commandments, the fourth is to remember the Sabbath. Every week of the year, from sunset on Friday afternoon until nightfall Saturday night, Jews are prohibited from performing a host of labors and activities, including direct use of any electronic device, traveling and more. The disconnection from the daily grind, the electronic maelstrom, the bombardment of media and messages and madness allows for a rare and life-rejuvenating ability to rediscover tranquility, family and community. It affirms sanity, re-energizes life-force and gives us the power to successfully conquer another week of our lives. The Sabbath is always welcomed first and foremost by the woman of the house lighting Shabbat candles.
When God presents the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, He introduces the subject with an unusual phraseology. He addresses Moses and commands: “Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel.”
Rabbeinu Bechaye on Exodus 19:3 (Yitro) explains that “the house of Jacob” (Beit Yaakov) refers to the women, while “the children of Israel” (Bnei Yisrael) refers to the men. God addresses the women before the men. He elaborates that it was important, even vital for the women to be spoken to first at this momentous, historic revelation of God.
He focuses on the mother’s role in nurturing her children. He states that a mother is the initial cause and motivation for her child to study Torah and therefore, when she lights the Shabbat candles on Friday eve, a command that is reserved for the woman, she has a special power to pray at that moment, to request and to receive children who will brighten the world with their Torah; for the moment of performing a commandment is propitious for having such requests fulfilled.
Rabbeinu Bechaye elaborates that for the merit of lighting the Shabbat candles and creating light, the woman will merit to have children, masters of Torah, which is also called light, as King Solomon stated in Proverbs: “For the candle is a commandment (Mitzvah) and the Torah, light. The sages echoed this sentiment with the statement that whoever is careful with lighting Shabbat candles will merit having children who will become Torah scholars.
May we each brighten the world in our own way and may we merit having and seeing children whose light will both burn brightly as well as kindle the light of others.
Happy New Year to the trees of the world, with whom we celebrate their new year today, Wednesday January 31, on the Hebrew date of 15 of Shvat (Tu B’Shvat).