The special hour of the Jewish woman comes when she lights the candles of Shabbat. After reciting the blessing over the candles, she prays from deep within her heart that Heaven grant all her requests, whether spiritual or material, for the good. Many women sense the importance of this moment. They feel a special closeness to their Creator, who hearkens to their blessing and listens to their nearly silent prayers; He listens from on High, and answers their prayers. A unique blessing awaits us within the Shabbat. At this sublime moment, as the Sabbath Queen spreads her wings over the universe, the mother of the house stands before the flickering lights and pours out her heart in prayer. These precious moments are a wellspring of sanctity and blessing for her.
Shabbat is likened to the bride of the Jewish nation. On the day of their “wedding”, the Jew attains sanctity and blessing. The Shabbat brings to the Jewish home the light of the Seventh Day and enriches it with many educational values.
The glow of the Shabbat candles is the light of “the most cherished of days.” It is a light with essence and content, a light of the soul. Long after the glow of the candles has faded, one can still feel their spiritual illumination, for it is a light which cannot be extinguished.
Throughout our long history, the Shabbat has reinforced the Jewish family and empowered it to cross rivers of blood and tears, and survive. On the weekday, the burdens of life weighed heavily on the shoulders of the Jew. He was compelled to struggle with his enemies even when the odds were overwhelmingly against him. Time and again, they threatened his very existence. Throughout it all, the Jew looked forward to the end of each week, knowing he would find respite and spiritual renewal with the onset of Shabbat. On this day he was no longer subservient to the gentile masters around him. He became the king of his own castle, like the pauper who knows for certain that great treasures are within his grasp and will soon be his. Each week, with the departure of the Sabbath, he found himself infused with new strength. Thus the Jew was able to go on for another week of struggle, knowing that in six days' time, he would again become a king.
The pressures of the weekday leave no room for calm reflection and relaxation. The opportunity to slow our pace long enough to gather around the Shabbat table affords us emotional and spiritual contentment. It fosters closer bonds between parent and child, brother and sister. It fosters a more positive outlook on the world, and gives us hope for a future which will be better than the present times.
For thousands of years, around the globe, Jewish families have gathered around the Shabbat table. Frequently, three or four generations united to strengthen their mutual bond. From the Shabbat they drew vigor and vitality to continue along their chosen path. There is no reason that the Shabbat table cannot serve our generation as well, as the climax of our week, as the central focus of our busy schedule which welds the members of the family, across their generations, into the united, loving unit which is the building block of a healthy society.