Shabbat Candles by Israeli artist – Ilan Hasson.
“There is more than one command in Judaism to light lights. There are three. There are the Shabbat candles. There is the Havdalah candle. And there are the Hanukkah candles.
They all shed light but what is the difference between them? The weekly Shabbat candles represent shalom bayit, peace in the home. They are lit indoors. They reflect, if you like, Judaism’s inner light, at the heart of which is the light of the sanctity of marriage and the holiness of home.
The Hanukkah candles, lit every night during the eight nights of the annual Hanukkah celebration, used to be lit outside — outside the front door. It was only fear of persecution, during exile in foreign and often hostile lands, that took the Hanukkah candles back inside. In recent times the Lubavitcher Rebbe introduced the custom of lighting giant menorahs in public places to bring back the original and intended spirit of the day, which was to share what we have with others, even wayfarers passing by. In Israel today, many light the Hanukkah lights outside the front doors of their homes.
Hanukkah candles are the light Judaism brings to the world when we are unafraid to announce our identity in public, live by our principles and fight, if necessary, for our freedom.
As for the Havdalah candle, which is made up of six wicks woven together, it represents the fusion of the two candles, the inner light of Shabbat, joined to the outer light we shine during the six days of the week when we go out into the world and live our faith in public.
When we live as Jews in private, filling our homes with the light of the Shekhina, when we live as Jews in public, bringing the light of hope to others, and when we live both together, then we bring light to the world.
There always were two ways to live in a world that is often dark and full of tears. We can curse the darkness or we can light a light, and as the Chassidim say:
Gam ohr katan meir choshech gadol. Even a little light drives out much darkness.
May we all help light up the world.*
There are various melodies to the sung blessing before lighting the Shabbat candles. Download the Shabbat Candle blessing here and listen to one of the melodies below.
* Based on article by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks