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Should We Light Shabbat Candles?


A sweet friend of mine recently asked me if it is commanded to light Shabbat candles to usher in Shabbat.


Here were my thoughts and ponderings:


This has a short and long answer. 

Short answer is, it is not explicitly commanded to, but it can be seen as indirectly commanded.


Here's why...


Exodus 35:3 says “Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”

As you probably know, before the time of electricity, people illuminated their dwellings with fire;

A fire in a fireplace

Fire from an oil lamp

Fire from a candle...


In observance of this command in Exodus 36:3, all flames that would sustain you on Sabbath were lit before Sabbath began and kept kindled throughout the 24hr period for light, food warming, and warmth in general.


This ancient practice of lighting the flame lives on as an age old ritual to welcome in the day of Shabbat even though we have the luxury of electricity.

 

Who made this a present culture-wide practice you might ask? 


Well, another long answer:


When Moses was leading Israel, he was instructed by his father in law Jethro and ordered by Adonai to appoint 70 men to help him teach Adonai’s judgements and statutes(Numbers 11:16-30).

This construct was also mentioned in Deuteronomy 17:8-13, specifically verses 10-11, speaking to Israel,

  “You will then act according to what they have told you there in that place which Adonai will choose; you are to take care to act according to all their instructions. In accordance with the Torah they teach you, you are to carry out the judgment they render, not turning aside to the right or the left from the verdict they declare to you.”


So this group of 71(Moses +the 70) carried on until the time of Yeshua up until around 350 AD. when persecution of Messianics and Jews was at a peak as a result of of the reign of Emperor Constantine.


In Christianity, the 71 are known as “The Jewish Court” or “The Sanhedrin”. These were the ones who sat and decided all the little technicalities of the commandment observances that have kept Judaism as a whole extremely unified amidst scattering and persecution.


Now, these rulings, being discussed over the ages and rediscussed even among more “modern” unofficial judges such as the Rambam, are held in books such as the talmud and Mishna and Gemara.

 

There are many ins and outs to this extending beyond the Shabbat candle discussion. For example, to shave side burns or not, or to eat meat and cheese together, both of which have scriptural basis.


As with anything, let us turn to the Holy Spirit and seek confirmation from Him and from other “modern members of the sanhedrin”, consisting of the body of Messiah, taking each topic in question before the throne for divine judgement.


We don’t want to follow anything blindly but test everything; keeping what passes the test of love for Adonai and our Neighbor.

For me, the lighting of Shabbat candles is a scripture based, historically supported “flavor” I enjoy having on our Sabbath table.

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