A time-honoredtradition

She’s the icon of royalty, the Jewish woman at her Shabbos candles. The hours leading up to this moment may have been hectic, but when she stands there, her hands covering her eyes, she’s in an oasis of peace, a place that only she occupies—with Hashem at her side. In this place, she joins the chain of the women before her, women in every generation, every era of Jewish history, who engaged in this beautiful practice, one Shabbos, another Shabbos, another Shabbos. As she whispers a prayer from the depths of her heart, the Jewish woman not only welcomes the Shabbos Queen into her home, but she connects more deeply to the eternal lineage she perpetuates. Dressed in her Shabbos finery, facing the flickering candles, she absorbs the purity that envelops her home, and she feels it deep inside. What a royal moment.

There, at the candles, she reflects on the heritage she’s blessed to transmit in her own home. No matter her location, no matter her place on the globe, her holy deed connects her to the women of yore. She’s a link in a magnificent legacy whose gems have been glistening for thousands of years. Of the very first links, Sarah and Rivkah Imeinu lit their candles with such sincerity, such intention. As one of the three miracles these pious women merited, the candles remained lit from one Shabbos to the next. Their tents, where the seeds of a nascent nation were first planted, were bathed in a glorious light all week long, a light that kindled the souls of all who entered.

As she whispers a prayer from the depths of her heart, the Jewish woman not only welcomes the Shabbos Queen into her home, but she connects more deeply to the eternal lineage she perpetuates.

For thousands of years, these candles have flickered. So precious is this mitzvah of ours to Hakadosh Baruch Hu that in the times of the Beis Hamikdash, when the Jewish women would spend their day there in prayer on Friday, they were miraculously swept up by the clouds and carried home in record time so they’d be able to light the candles just when they needed to. “My dear daughters,” Hashem was telling them, “See how precious your mitzvah of candle lighting is to me. See how I value and cherish this exquisite deed, how I wish to hear your prayers as you stand at the candles, their dancing light reflected in your holy eyes.”

When we Jewish women strike that match, we’re melding the iron of yet another chain in the link. We’re holding hands with the pious women before us, the ones who have sacrificed their all to engage in this precious mitzvah. Even in the darkest of times in our history, when the nations sought to eradicate the burning flame that roared within, she kept lighting. Another candle, another candle. In the cellars of Spain, in the ghettos of Eastern Europe, all she wanted was to bring wick to oil and keep the fire burning.

Indeed, the Jewish woman personifies these flames. She has the capacity to keep flickering, to keep her spark—and that of her family—aglow, to dance in the darkness. In the merit of this special mitzvah, coupled with the merit she accrues when donating to those less fortunate than her, she draws the light into every crevice of her heart. Solidifying her connection with the lamplighters before her, she invites the Shabbos Queen—and the Shechinah— into her home.

In the cellars of Spain, in the ghettos of Eastern Europe, all she wanted was to bring wick to oil and keep the fire burning.

The power ofgiving.

Is there a more auspicious time for a Jewish woman to express her deepest wishes on behalf of herself, her family, and all of klal Yisroel, than when she lights her Shabbos candles? Engaging in this special mitzvah that comes only once a week, she’s a vessel through which blessings come forth into her home. There, at the candles, she takes stock of the week gone by, offering a heartfelt thanks, and she prays. She prays for health, for wellbeing, for parnassah, for nachas. Ever the thoughtful being, she has in mind those less fortunate than her. Oh, so much to daven for.

She prays for health, for wellbeing, for parnassah, for nachas.

What is a better way to propel those precious tefillos upward than with the power of tzedakah? When we exhibit our concern to our fellow Jew, in a most tangible way, Chazal teach us, Hakadosh Baruch Hu has mercy on us, as well. While this is true for any form of charity, donating to the cause of Reb Meir Baal Haness generates untold blessing. This age-old practice has been encouraged for centuries by the gedolim of yesteryear. In the zechus of donating to Reb Meir Baal Haness at candle-lighting, Reb Hershel of Ziditchov would say, Moshiach will come. Which Jewish woman doesn’t yearn for that day?

Reminiscing of his days of yore in Hungary, the Tzeilimer Rav would recall, “There was a pushka in every home just like there was a mezuzah on every door. In those days, it was inconceivable that a woman could light candles Erev Shabbos before putting money into the pushka of Reb Meir Baal Haness.”

What makes the cause so special, so unique, so powerful? In addition to the blessings and support it has received for years now, the sefarim teach us that when one gives tzedakah to the poor of Israel, it is as though they have delivered their prayer to Hashem via the holiness of Israel. With our donation, we are elevating our prayers. We’re transporting them through the holiest place in the world, directly upward toward the Kisei Hakavod —all from the comfort of our home.

The great Reb Aron Halevi of Estrolasha wrote, “I ask that you select two individuals who will go around the city each Erev Shabbos and collect charity for Reb Meir Baal Haness, which the families have prepared to give before candle lighting.” Grasping the koach inherent in this charity—for both the recipients and the donors, the tzadikim of yesteryear would urge everyone to keep a pushka at hand and donate consistently on every Erev Shabbos.

When we take that proverbial coin and drop it into the pushka, when we make a commitment to donate to poor widows and orphans in Israel, we usher untold blessing into our home. So worthy is this great cause that the great Rebbe Mordche of Lechovitz once instructed a Jew who had insufficient funds to buy staples for Shabbos to donate toward it instead. The story goes that one Erev Shabbos, this pure-hearted Jew realized that he had just enough money for kiddush wine. But how would his wife give tzedakah to Reb Meir Baal Haness before candle lighting? He suddenly spotted Rebbe Mordche of Lechovitz coming toward him, so he approached the tzaddik with his quandary. Rebbe Mordche responded, “For kiddush, you can be yotzei with challah, but to give tzedakah, you need money!”

With our weekly donation to those less fortunate than us in Israel, we’re fulfilling the advice of those who grasped the power of this practice. We’re lighting the eyes of those less fortunate up, and bringing light into our own lives too.

In the zechus of donating to Reb Meir Baal Haness at candle lighting…Moshiach will come.