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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 ("ḥobah") or a meritorious act ("miẓwah"; Shab. 25b and Tos. ib. s.v. "Hadlaḳah"; comp. Shab. 23b). Considered as an obligation, it is especially incumbent upon the housewife, and the neglect of it entails heavenly punishment (Shab. ii. 6). If there is no woman in the house, the obligation rests upon the man (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 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. "Ḥobah"; "Seder R. Amram" [ed. Warsaw, 1865], i. 24; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 263, 5; Be'er Heṭeb, ad loc.). Pious women recite a prayer ("teḥinnah")for the health and prosperity of their families before and after the blessing.


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 ("'iṭran"), which emits an ill odor (Shab. 20b, 24b). Nor is it permissible to use balsam ("ẓeri"), 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 Ḥayyim, 264, 6; "Sefer Ḥasidim," ed. Wistinetzki, § 623, and note). Candles made of pitch, wax, or fat are also permitted (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 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—Ex. xx. 8 and Deut. v. 12—of the Sabbath commandment respectively begin (Kol Bo, 31; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 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 Heṭeb to Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 263, 1; Ḥayye Adam; Shab. v. 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." iv. 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 Ḥayyim, 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. Friedländer, "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" (Ex. xxxv. 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 (Fürst, "Gesch. des Karäert." ii. 10 and notes 53, 54, Leipsic, 1862; comp. "Sefer Ḥasidim," § 1147, ed. Warsaw, 1901). The later Karaites, however, light candles on Sabbath eve (Neubauer, "Gesch. des Karäert." Hebr. supplement, ch. iii., Leipsic, 1866).

Perpetual Lamp.(In the possession of Maurice Herrmann, New York.)
  • Maimonides, Yad, Shabbat, v.;
  • Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 263-265;
  • Shibbole ha-Leḳeṭ, §§ 59-64, ed. Buber, Wilna, 1886;
  • Shub, Ṭa'ame ha-Minhagim, §§ 167, 172, Lemberg, 1896;
  • M. Friedman, The Sabbath Light, in J. Q. R. iii. 707-721.
K. J. H. G.
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