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Turn On the Lights

May 9, 2009 | by Rabbi Boruch Leff

Why do we signify Shabbat's entry by lighting up the lights?

It is one of the most beautiful sights and experiences within the gamut of Jewish life. The lady of the house walks toward the candelabra with great anticipation, knowing that she is about to touch something otherworldly. She strikes the match, lights the candles, closes her eyes, and makes the blessing. As she finishes the blessing and begins to recite a special prayer, an overwhelming feeling of spirituality permeates her inner core. Shabbat has arrived into her open and welcoming arms.

Why do we signify Shabbat's entry by lighting up the lights?

Imagine yourself going into the kitchen in the darkness of the night looking for a midnight snack The lights are off and you cannot see anything in the room. It's so dark, you can't even find the light switch. You can't see or access that snack you desire, even though it's sitting right there. The food is ready to be eaten, but as far as you are concerned it doesn't exist, because you are steeped in darkness.

What happens when you find the switch and turn on the lights? A brand new room, midnight snack included, emerges.

Our Sages refer to the physical world as darkness. Spirituality is present in the world around us but it can be very difficult to find. All too often we're in a dark room. On Shabbat we turn on the lights and see the spiritual dimension that has always been there.

When we light candles welcoming the Shabbat, the spiritual light of the world turns on. Now we can see what we truly yearn for -- holiness, meaning, and sanctity.

When we light the Shabbat candles, we turn on the lights of our soul and spirituality becomes clear. We feel God's presence and His involvement in our lives with the appearance of the Shabbat Queen.

On Shabbat, we don't merely physically rest. We take a mental break from our busy and stressful workweek. We increase our serenity; our prayers, our song, our Torah studies, and our kindness. All become energized.

With the lights on, we are inspired to live, to learn, to love. We spend time with our children, our families, the most important people in our lives.

With the lights on, we realize that there's no such thing as ‘not having time for something important' -- we must make the time. We all make time for things we recognize as being crucial. When was the last time you went without eating an entire day? We need to learn to see what are truly the crucial things in life .

On Shabbat, we internalize the idea that sometimes we're so busy driving that we don't stop for gas, and then we run out of gas and burn out the car.

On Shabbat, we rejuvenate and reconnect so we can inspire others. With the lights on, we understand that while sometimes ‘it is what it is,' we have the ability to change what it is and to make it better.

On Shabbat, God always leaves the light on for us.


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