The following article is a revised edition of an article that appeared last year on Globe Tribune.Info.
This week, parshat Chayei Sarah, candle lighting will be at 4:29 PM in Brooklyn, NY. Candle lighting is 18 minutes before sunset. Lighting candles after the actual time of sunset is actually lighting a fire on Shabbat, which is why we say the blessing after we light the Shabbat candles. The intention of candle lighting is actually to usher in Shabbat by lighting candles before the day of rest starts.
Candle lighting times differ from city to city. People who live even 10 miles from each other differ by a minute as to when they start Shabbat, or any other new day. The measurement and experience of time in Jewish tradition differs markedly from the civil calendar, on which each new day begins at midnight.
Rabbinic law allows a flame that is lit before Shabbat to remain burning after Shabbat has started. The candles are a visible reminder that all the work one has done during the week contributes to the beauty of Shabbat. Shabbat candles are also associated with domestic tranquility. After Shabbat, the act of lighting a candle (with two or more wicks held or bound together) delineates that one may again kindle a flame. The practice of lighting candles to usher in Shabbat was instituted by Sarah, the first matriarch of the Jewish people. In Jewish tradition, the matriarch Sarah is credited with establishing the practice of lighting Shabbat candles.
Chabad.org has a section of their website on which you can look up candle lighting times in your locality. In addition,Aish.com also has worthwhile articles that can be printed out before Shabbat and read on Shabbat.
AISH.coma has an article about Julius Rosenwald, a businessman and philanthropist who financed African American schools at a time when America was segregated by law. Rosenwald was, by his own accounts motivated to identify with African Americans due to persecution experienced by Jews for their faith and ethnicity.
Chabad.org has an article about Og, the king of Bashan. A seldom noted fact is that Og was actually a passenger on Noah’s ark, along with Noah, his wife and sons.
The two major events of this parsha are the passing away of Sarah and the betrothal of Rivkah. Of particular significance is the fact that Eliezer was sent as an intermediary to find a wife for Yitzhak. Even in circumstances where Jewish men and women meet without a matchmaker, their marriage has implications for the future of the Jewish people as well as an impact upon the day-to-day communal life of the Jewish people.
In this week’s parsha, Eliezer observes Rivka’s hospitality not only to him, but her kindness in caring for his camels. Quenching the thirst of numerous camels indeed shows a commitment to hospitality. Everything that Abraham looked for in a wife for his son Yitzhak remains instructive to us today, in addition to the wise concept that one should observe the behavior of a potential spouse for hints of what they might be like in the future.
This entire parsha, the name of which translates as “the life of Sarah” occurs after her passing. The impact that Sarah had on history as the mother of the Jewish people was a major one. In a real sense, her life is extended through us, her descendants. May a time come quickly when all of Abraham’s children, both those from Sarah and those whose spiritual inheritance is from Hagar, find a path of peace in our world.