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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Lamp, Sabbath

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Special lamp or chandelier used in Jewish households on Sabbath eve. The lighting of a special lamp on Sabbath eve, regarded as a religious duty, is of early pharisaic origin (see Sabbath ). The early tannaim speak of it as a well-known institution (Shab. ii.), and their discussions turn only on the minor details connected with it, as the kind of wick or oil to be employed. The later rabbis differed in their opinions as to whether the lighting of the Sabbath lamp was an obligation ("ḥ obah") or a meritorious act ("miẓ wah" Shab. 25b and Tos. ib. s.v. "Hadlaḳ ah" comp. Shab. 23b). Considered as an obligation, it is especially incumbent upon the housewife, and the neglect of it entails heavenly punishment (Shab. 2:6). If there is no woman in the house, the obligation rests upon the man (Shulḥ an ' Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥ ayyim, 263,6). The blessing pronounced at the lighting of the Sabbath lamp is: "Blessed art Thou . . . who hast sanctified us with Thy commandments and enjoined us to light the Sabbath lamp" (Shab. 25b Tos. ib. s. v. "Ḥ obah" "Seder R. Amram" [ed. Warsaw, 1865], 1:24 Oraḥ Ḥ ayyim, 263,5 Be' er Heṭ eb, ad loc. ). Pious women recite a prayer ("teḥ innah")for the health and prosperity of their families before and after the blessing.

Materials.
The wick used for the Sabbath lamp should be of such material as flax, linen, or cotton, but not of hair or wool, or similar materials. The oil should be of a kind that will easily feed the wick pitch, wax, or fat should not be used neither should resin ("' iṭ ran"), which emits an ill odor (Shab. 20b, 24b). Nor is it permissible to use balsam ("ẓ eri"), which produces a sweet odor, lest some one make use of it while it is burning and thus render the supply inadequate, an act that would make him guilty of quenching a light on Sabbath (ib. 25b). All other kinds of oil may be used, although olive-oil is the kind most recommended (Oraḥ Ḥ ayyim, 264,6 "Sefer Ḥ asidim," ed. Wistinetzki, § 623, and note). Candles made of pitch, wax, or fat are also permitted (Oraḥ Ḥ ayyim, 264,7).

Number of Lights.
There is no provision made in the Talmud with regard to the number of lights. Later authorities mention the custom of lighting two lights, one for each of the terms "Zakor" and "Shamor," with which the two versions— Exodus 20:8 and Deuteronomy 5: the Sabbath commandment respectively begin (Kol Bo, 31 Oraḥ Ḥ ayyim, 263,1). The seven-branched Sabbath lamp is of later origin, and has its source in the sanctity attached to the number seven by the cabalists (Be' er Heṭ eb to Oraḥ Ḥ ayyim, 263,1 Ḥ ayye Adam Shab. 5:13). Some homes in medieval Jewry had a hanging chandelier that was used only on Sabbath eve. The proverb "When the lamp is lowered all sorrows are fled" has its origin in the lowering of the chandelier, usually of eight branches, on Sabbath eve (Berliner, "Aus dem Innern Leben der Deutschen Juden im Mittelalter," ch. iii., Hebrew ed., Warsaw, 1900 comp. Abrahams, "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages," p. 154).

The Sabbath lamp should be lighted before sunset on Friday. In ancient times six blasts were blown with a trumpet by the public herald, the third blast indicating the time for lighting the Sabbath lamp (Shab. 35b Josephus, "B. J." 4:9, end). According to some authorities the Sabbath enters with the kindling of the lights hence the custom that the woman who lights the lamp does no work afterward (Oraḥ Ḥ ayyim, 263,10, Isserles' gloss). The prevalent custom is to kindle the lights and then say the blessing while holding the hands before them (ib. 263,5, Isserles' gloss comp. Friedlä nder, "Jewish Religion," p. 358, and note, London, 1900).

The early Karaites, following their teacher Anan, prohibited all lights on the Sabbath, interpreting the passage "Ye shall kindle no fire . . . on the Sabbath day" (Exodus 35:3 ) to forbid not only the act of kindling, but also the presence of a light in the house. They regarded it as a duty to extinguish even a light left burning by mistake (Fü rst, "Gesch. des Karä ert." 2:10 and notes 53,54, Leipsic, 1862 comp. "Sefer Ḥ asidim," § 1147, ed. Warsaw, 1901). The later Karaites, however, light candles on Sabbath eve (Neubauer, "Gesch. des Karä ert." Hebr. supplement, ch. iii., Leipsic, 1866).


Perpetual Lamp.
(In the possession of Maurice Herrmann, New York.)
Bibliography : Maimonides, Yad, Shabbat , v. Shulḥ an ' Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥ ayyim , 263-265 Shibbole ha-Leḳ eṭ , § § 59-64, ed. Buber, Wilna, 1886 Shub, Ṭ a' ame ha-Minhagim , § § 167,172, Lemberg, 1896 M. Friedman, The Sabbath Light , in J. Q. R. 3:707-721. K. J. H. G.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Lamp, Sabbath'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tje/l/lamp-sabbath.html. 1901.

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