In a previous post, we talked about 4 of the 7 rabbinic mitzvahs that have to be done by higher positions in the Jewish religion. This time we are going to talk about the other 3 rabbinic mitzvahs and what they mean for every Jew in the world.
The first one we are going to talk about is the Shabbat Candles. The candles are lit on the Friday just before the beginning of Shabbat. The reason behind this tradition is that the Shabbat is a special day to rest from the work of the week. Even the domesticated animals and staff had to rest in this day.
The candles represent peace and harmony within dark spaces. The Rabbis made the candles almost mandatory so people wouldn’t be crashing against each other in the Shabbat festivity and that peace and calm would be the norm in this day.
Back in the day people did not know how to honor and delight themselves in this special day, so it had to be written for them. The Shabbat is honored by using clean clothing and by having a special time with fine food and drink.
The candle here represents that light that shines in the dark and that gives the people the possibility to delight in the Shabbat. Also, the candle provided the light to see the food and its colors, textures and forms. People are visual and each and every ingredient in the meals is directly related to what we see and taste. The Rabbis used to say that a blind person is never satisfied with his food.
Later on, maybe due to the prices of oil rising, many homes just ate the food and skipped the lighting part. It is hard to tell people to enjoy things in a certain way so it had to be left alone. The thing is that a dark home brings more problems than satisfaction and this is contradictory to the idea of the Shabbat. Shabbat is a day where peace and harmony are the rules and in a dark house, where people trip over things and run into each other, peace and harmony is hard to keep.
So, the spiritual leaders saw that something had to be done about this issue and they called for a mandatory statement that said that to keep the Shalom Bayit (family harmony) every house must have a lamp lit before Shabbat in every room where people were going to be. They Rabbis promised that the person who did this was going to be blessed with children that would follow and study the Torah.
As for today, the only candle that must be lit must be at the table to conserve tradition; the other room can be lit with electricity.
The second rabbinic Mitzvah is the Purim (Megillah). This Mitzvah is celebrated because of the salvation from extermination that the Jewish had by Queen Esther and Mordechai. After this tragic episode, the sages gave instructions to each and every Jew to celebrate this festivity which is called Purim on the 14th (or 15th) of the month of Adar, which is the anniversary of the salvation and it is in late winter or early spring.
For the Purim, 4 Mitzvahs have to be performed in this order: the Megillah is read one time in the evening and another time the next day. The other 2 mitzvahs are to give two gifts of food to any fellow Jew and to give money to two poor people.
This festival is the day where Jews can be more Jews than ever. Some children and adults even wear costumes this day and the traditional food that is cooked that day is the hamantaschen (or oznay Haman).
The third and last rabbinic Mitzvah is the Chanukah. This festival represents the victory of the Maccabees over the Greek army in the year 139 BCE. The Jews returned to the temple and they went to find that there was only a small pot of oil to light the temple. This jug of oil kept burning for 8 days until other oil was imported. Chanukah is the celebration of the victory of the small Jewish army and the miracle of the jug lasting for 8 days.
The celebration lasts 8 days and the mitzvahs of Chanukah are to light the menorah and to recite Hallel to give thanks to god due to the miracle performed. There are also special prayers and fried foods. At the peak of the festival comes the menorah lighting which has 9 flames. One is the flame that lights the other 8 and it is called the shamash (“attendant”). The lights are lit each day until the 8 days pass and the 8 light are lit.
Be sure to also read this article about the other 4 rabbinic Mitzvahs
* Featured Image courtesy of slgckgc at Flickr.com