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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘candles’

‘Danger of Fire’ from Shabbat Candles Shuts Out Jewish Tourists

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Orthodox Jews from Manchester and London have decided to end their annual summer visit to a campus on the Welsh coast after the host University of  decided that lighting candles on Shabbat is a fire hazard.

Jews have not always been welcome guests at the University of Aberystwyth, which is empty of students during the summer vacation. In 2009, the Jews were welcomed with swastikas on the grass and on piece of paper found in residence halls.

University authorities insisted there was nothing anti-Semitic in their new condition for the Jewish tourists to visit, according to the London Independent.

It quoted a university spokesman as saying, “The university… would be delighted to welcome this group back, as long as they are able to sign our terms and conditions.”

However, one of the annual visitors, identified by the Independent as ”Mrs. Brander,” said, “We have found a holder to make each candle safer. We offered to  discuss it with the fire brigade, but  the university was not interested.”

Jewish families rent the university’s facilities on the coast for a vacation away from the Britain’s urban centers. In the past years, they have lit candles on Friday nights at the University of Aberystwyth without any question, until last year, when they were told of the new condition. During the same summer, a visiting rabbi drowned.

The tourists ignored the request until recently, when they decided they could not give up the lighting of candles.

“Ultimately, there was no real decision for us – our religion requires the lighting of candles,” Brander told the British newspaper.

The University of Aberystwyth five years ago defended itself against charges of anti-Semitism by London Spectator columnist Melanie Phillips, who published charges by a student that he had to write anti-Israeli and anti-American opinions or face receiving lower marks.

The student complained that in one course, a comparison was made between the treatment of Jews in Germany before the Second World War and the treatment of Muslims today. The lecturer reportedly told the student, “My assertion that Israel has been engaged in state terrorism lies first in a clear understanding of what the aims and consequences of terrorism are.”

The university replied that the course was given with the aim of being “objective, with no bias and no prejudice against any race or country.”

Candle 2: Watch, Don’t Use

Monday, December 10th, 2012

There’s an inherent problem in the rabbinic commandment that we may only watch the Chanukah candles but not use them. It works fine for stopping oneself from re-lighting a Shamash candle whose flame went out with one of the lit candles – everybody knows you’re not supposed to use the Chanukah candle for that, you have to strike a new match and light the Shamash anew (gone are the day when everyone around the Menorah had a useful, little Bic lighter in their pocket).

But what about the light – can it be used to illuminate an otherwise dark room? Can we only watch the Chanukah candles with all the electric lights on in the room, lest we see by mistake an object other than the Chanukah candles which is lit by those same candles, and thus be using them for something other than pure sight?

Like these two young women in the picture – or us, watching the picture for that matter, are we in violation of Rabbinic law by also spotting the ponchikes (sufganiot, jelly doughnuts)?

One quick solution would be to swallow up those lovely, fried dough balls and then there will be nothing left to see other than pure Chanukah lights, in memory of the miracle.

Bon appetit..

These Candles: The Prayer that Went Viral

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

In honor of the Palestinians recently getting UN recognition, I dedicate my article to ancient Palestinian traditions.  :)

On Chanukah, while lighting candles, we declare we’re lighting the candles for Chanukah, and that we’re not allowed to benefit from their light.

This declaration, in Hebrew known as “Ha-Nerot Hallalu” (These Candles) appears in the  “Tractate of the Scribes” (Masechet Sofrim).  In this early Halachik work, written in Israel around the 8th century (the Gaonic Era), we have a description of the ceremony of lighting Hanukkah candles, as it was done in ancient Israel.

On the first day, the person lighting the candles blesses upon lighting them.  He then states the following  declaration (translation based on the Rabbi Birnbaum’s siddur):

We light these candles on account of the triumphs and miracles and wonders which You performed for our fathers through Your holy priests.  Throughout these eight days of Hanukkah, these candles are sacred, and we are not permitted to make any use of them, but we should observe them in order to praise Your great name for Your wonders and Your miracles and Your triumphs.

The person lighting then adds two additional blessings: Shehecheyanu and the blessing over the Hanukkah miracle (Al Ha-Nissim).  The  participants repeat the last two blessings.

On the other days of the holiday, the person lighting the candles blesses upon lighting the candles and makes the aforementioned Declaration. The participants say  the blessing for the Hanukkah miracle.

This Israeli custom was generally forgotten and was not mentioned by any other Halachic books in  the centuries following .

That is, until the 13th century,  when the Israeli tradition was revived thanks to the custom of a German Rabbi.  Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, also known as the Maharam of Rothenburg, loved the Israeli traditions.  He adopted the custom to say the “These Candles” declaration, based on the language of Masechet Sofrim.

His students reported this custom, and the prayer went viral.  The custom to say “Ha-Nerot Hallalu” was adopted all across the Jewish world by both Ashekanzi and Sephardi communities.

The Maharam of Rothenburg didn’t just love Israel from afar.  In 1286 he led dozens of Jewish families towards Israel.  However, he didn’t make it.  He was caught in Italy and accused of leading a mass escape from Germany, a crime at the time, as the Jews were by then property of the king.  He was imprisoned and died in a dingy pit, sacrificing his life for the right of return to Palestine!

An edict confiscating the property of the “escaping” Jews, documents that they came from various towns in Germany: Mainz, Worms, Speyer, Oppenheim and Wetterau.

I had often wondered, if Jews love Israel so much, why didn’t they just get up and come here.  The Mahram’s Aliyah attempt showed that Jews did.   They weren’t always successful, many times they perished on the way or soon after they got here, but they continued trying.  Over and over again.

We now have the privilege of retuning to our homeland. We can now adhere to the original Israeli custom of lighting the candle by the door of our homes or the gate of our yard, without fear.  When we recite “Ha-Nerot Hallalu”, we should remember its origin in that obscure period of Palestinian history, and the great leader who died in a dark pit but spread the light of hope and salvation around the Jewish world.

Visit the Muqata.

What I Learned from Hurricane Sandy

Friday, December 7th, 2012

I am writing this column as Hurricane Sandy is barreling through the greater New York area, after having sorted a load of clean laundry by the light of a group of yahrtzeit candles and having washed my supper dishes with the aid of a clip on barbeque lamp. My electricity went out almost four hours ago and thoughts of what I did right and what I did wrong in preparation for a one of a kind storm that ironically, bears my name are still fresh in my mind.

Hurricane Sandy marks the second time I have had my electricity knocked out by a late October storm, having lost power exactly one year ago for five and a half days during a freak snowstorm that turned my little corner of the world into something that looked more like a war zone than a picturesque hamlet in New York’s Hudson Valley. In light of last year’s storm, I thought I had all my pre-storm preparations under control, but I can tell you right now that I was wrong and I am hoping that as we celebrate the anniversary of last year’s power outage with yet another blackout, I will finally learn my lesson and be better prepared for future meteorological mishaps.

I should add that this is by no means a comprehensive guide to weathering a storm (no pun intended.) Those are available by the dozen on the Internet, although you obviously want to read those before the storm blows through and totally decimates your wireless connection. These are just random tips that I have had the unfortunate opportunity to collect during too many days without electricity.

Lesson Number 1: It doesn’t matter what the season, storms can be very serious business and should be respected, given their ability to wreak havoc with our lives, particularly in this day and age when our lives revolve around numerous items that require electricity. So be it a hurricane, a nor’easter, a blizzard or a tropical storm, don’t underestimate the weather’s ability to do major damage.

Lesson Number 2: Just because you think you are prepared for a storm doesn’t mean you are. I know I have enough flashlights for every member of my family and that I have a basket full of batteries sitting in my closet. Yet, somehow, almost all the flashlights have disappeared and I am almost completely out of AA and D batteries, the two sizes I need for the few flashlights that didn’t mysteriously vanish into thin air. Keep a flashlight next to your bed at night and if you are going out and will be coming back after dark, take a flashlight with you. Unless you have lived through a blackout, you can’t possibly imagine just how dark it can get when there is no power anywhere in your neighborhood.

Lesson Number 3: Flashlights are probably not the only light sources you own. Put your kids to work and have them dig out all the munchkin sized flashlights they have gotten as prizes and those mini booklights they use to read under their blankets at night when they are supposedly fast asleep. A clip-on barbeque lamp has turned out to be the best birthday gift my sister-in-law has ever gotten my husband as it travels from room to room, particularly useful when you don’t want to shower in the dark, and a set of battery operated tea lights we bought as a decorative accent for my daughter’s vort five years ago were the perfect light source to illuminate both the stairs and the upstairs hallway.

Lesson Number 4: You can never have too many yahrtzeit candles in your house. While it is important to only light them on a non-flammable surface, far away from any flammable objects, and it goes without saying that candles are a serious hazard when there are small children around, yahrtzeit candles are easily moved, and with their flames generally confined inside their containers, are far safer than regular candles. Be warned that glass ones have been known to crack, with devastating results, so be sure to buy the metal ones.

A Letter To My Camper

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Dear Ariana,

It was a steep, downhill walk from our bunkhouse to the marquee where we would be lighting Shabbos candles. A weak sun sank lower into the mountains, the sky behind it a hazy yellow with streaks of pink weaving their way through purple accents.

As we walked, I listened idly to the conversation of your bunkmates, my campers. You were at that age where you are young and innocent enough to cruise comfortably through life, yet old enough to start understanding the dynamics of social equality. The discussions were light, yet already, certain elements of subconscious peer pressure were beginning to make themselves known. Two or three girls walked at the center of the group, their laughter dominating those at the sidelines, their silent but obvious confidence and self assurance automatically portraying them as leaders.

Those who trailed behind that halo had shoulders stooped over in humble, yet sad defense against the powers that were just too forceful for them to break into.

As we walked, we were joined by other groups of girls heading for the lighting ceremony. I observed similar group dynamics in the other bunks, but it appeared to me your loneliness and stark isolation from the rest of the bunk was that much more apparent. Undercurrents of bullying had been playing into effect all week and I had already dealt with enough scenarios to know that I was in for a tough summer. This, I knew, was particularly due to the ringleader of our bunch. I had watched the goings on through careful eyes but hadn’t quite been able to pinpoint exactly where things were going wrong in our bunk.

We reached the dining room. Over one hundred candles were set up on a long row of tables. The girls, most of them not from religious homes, were dressed in their Shabbos finery. For some, like you, it would be their first time lighting Shabbos candles. For others, it was a yearly ritual they only got to practice when they came here, to this camp in the mountains every summer. And others had taken on the mitzvah and had shared it with their families.

Each bunk was called up one at a time to light the candles. The head counselor stood by the table, overlooking the sacred moment. The large hall was electric with the atmosphere of Shabbos and we felt it as soon as we entered.

In due course, our bunk was called up. Ten fresh faced, tanned, eager young girls stood around the candles. Some were already lit and the air was filled with the fumes of burnt matches. I inhaled deeply, the smell awakening in me countless Friday evenings of lit Shabbos candles.

The head counselor surveyed the cluster of girls seriously, her gaze taking in every upturned head. She started to speak in a low, soft voice.

“Since the time of our forefathers, Avraham and Sarah, Jewish women and girls have been lighting Shabbos candles. Some start doing it at the age of three, some start at Bat Mitzvah and some start when they get married, lighting two.”

Behind us, bursts of laughter and echoes of lively conversation faded away. It was just us, the candles and the lulling explanation.

“Lighting the candles for Shabbos is a mitzvah that has belonged to Jewish women and one that has helped them keep their faith throughout history. The candles are lit to bring in the holy, sacred day of Shabbos, a day when we on this world get to taste a little of what the angels above experience near the Heavenly throne.”

All the girls, you especially, were silent, enraptured.

“The time of lighting candles is a wonderful and auspicious time for asking G-d to bless us in the forthcoming week for whatever we need. It is at this time that the heavenly gates are open and our prayers go straight to Hashem, where He receives them with open arms.”

I turned to look slowly at you, gauging your reaction. You had been through a lot this week. You were, undoubtedly, the social outcast of the bunk. If the girls had just ignored you, that would have been almost fine. Instead, with one clever instigator at their head, one who manipulated the rest of the group, you had been subject to a week that had left me, never mind you, broken hearted.

Lighting Yom Tov Candles

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Question: When should women light yom tov candles?

Answer: Women light Shabbos candles around 18 minutes before sunset to ensure that they don’t accidentally light on Shabbos itself. Lighting candles (from a pre-existing flame) on yom tov, however, is permissible. Thus, it would seem that women can light yom tov candles even hours after sunset (as long as they do so before the yom tov meal).

Some argue otherwise. The Gemara (Shabbat 23b, Rashi) states that R. Yosef’s wife lit Shabbos candles right before sunset. R. Yosef advised her to light much earlier based on the verse, “The pillar of clouds did not move away during the day, nor the pillar of fire at night, from before the people” (Exodus 13:22). This verse teaches us that the pillar of fire arrived before the pillar of clouds departed. Thus, R. Yosef advised his wife to light Shabbos candles while it is still day. HaGaon Rav Itzik Blazer of St. Petersburg (known as Reb Itzel Petersberger) contended that this teaching indicates that candles must always be lit in the afternoon.

Why, then, do Jewish women not light in the afternoon before yom tov? Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Mo’adim U’zemanim: Haggadah shel Pesach, Minhagei HaGra, Hadlakat Nerot) suggests that the common minhag does not accord with R. Yosef’s teaching because candles are not used for illumination in modern homes. We only light Shabbos and yom tov candles as an act of respect for the Sabbath and festival. For illumination, we have electric lights, which are on in the afternoon. These lights may be symbolic of the ancient pillar of fire that arrived during the day.

Rav Sternbuch concludes, however, that lechat’chila it may be preferable to light yom tov candles prior to sunset in accord with those who believe the Talmud requires one to do so.

If the yom tov candles represent the sole source of illumination, it would appear that lighting before sunset is actually obligatory (unless erev yom tov is on Shabbos). In addition, people who have timers on their lights should time them to turn on before sunset (or light candles before sunset).

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, has authored several works on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas,” is available at Amazon .com and Judaica stores.

No Peeking…

Friday, May 4th, 2012

A mother in Beitar Illit (pronounced “ee-leet”), in the Judean Mountains west of Gush Etzion, 6 miles south of Jerusalem, lights Shabbat candles together with her daughter.

Beitar Illit, named after the ancient Jewish city of Beitar, was established in 1984 and initially settled by a small group of young Religious Zionist families. The city has since expanded and the population is expected to reach 100,000 by 2020.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/no-peeking/2012/05/04/

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