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Kindling Candles

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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Kindling Candles

We know that when a woman lights Shabbos candles[1] it is a special time to daven. The Chazon Ish would comment that even a child who was not blessed with special intelligence but puts all his efforts into his learning and prospers is successful because of his mother’s or grandmother’s tefillos and tears shed at candle lighting.[2]


A young R’ Moshe Sternbuch once related a novel Torah thought to the Tchebiner Rav. The Tchebiner Rav told R’ Sternbuch “What you said now was not your original thought but rather it was your mother’s. it was in the merit of your mother’s tefillos at candle lighting that you were capable of constructing such a beautiful and novel Torah thought.


The Daas Moshe[3] writes that his father told him that the mother of R’ Shmuel Kaidenover[4]—who authored Birkas Hazevach on Seder Kodshim and Birkas Shmuel on the Torah among other sefarim—didn’t know how to daven at all. However, at Shabbos candle lighting, she would pray in Russian that it should be the will of Hashem that her son Shmuel should be a Torah Scholar!


A child of a well-known non-observant Israeli personality was chozer b’teshuva and became a Torah scholar. When asked what merit spurred this man’s return to Judaism, the Chazon Ish replied, “It was because of an ancestor who would daven at the Shabbos candles that her progeny merit to be righteous and G-d fearing Jews. Even one tefilla, one tear is never lost.”[5]


A member of the Israeli family Moskowitz, which is renowned for their unmatched character and dedication to Torah and mitzvos, disclosed a family secret as to their success. “My grandmother was not religious but she always lit Shabbos candles and davened for the success of her children and grandchildren, as this is what her mother did back in Europe. Her husband, my grandfather, worked for then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and when he would arrive home every day, he would praise the Prime Minister. Impressed by these accolades, my grandmother davened every Friday night after lighting candles that her descendants be like Ben-Gurion. One day, the Prime Minister met with the Chazon Ish. After the meeting the Prime Minister called his staff together including my grandfather lauding the venerable sage’s superlative penetrating brilliance deep perception in all subject matters. That day my grandfather arrived home and reported what Ben-Gurion said about the Chazon Ish. Upon hearing Ben-Gurion’s praise for the Chazon Ish and how he never met such a giant of a man, my grandmother reasoned that if the Prime Minister held the Chazon Ish in such high esteem, she would start davening after lighting Shabbos candles that her progeny should be like the Chazon Ish.”[6]

[1] In the mid-1990s, a Jewish outreach professional wondered, what if the New York Times printed the Shabbos candle lighting time each week? Imagine the Jewish awareness and pride that might result from such a prominent mention of Shabbos each week. He contacted a Jewish philanthropist who agreed to fund this project which cost nearly two thousand dollars a week. And so for the next five years, every Friday, Jews around the world would see “Jewish Women: Shabbat candle lighting time this Friday is…” Eventually the philanthropist had to reduce the number of projects he was funding, and so, in June 1999, the little Shabbos candle lighting notice made its last appearance in the New York Times. At least that’s what people thought. On January 1, 2000, the NY Times ran a Millennium edition commemorating the paper’s 100th anniversary. This special issue featured three front pages: one contained the news from January 1, 1900, the second contained the actual news of the day, January 1, 2000 while the third front page, featured projected headlines of January 1, 2100. It included such stories as a welcome to the fifty-first state, Cuba, and a debate over the issue of whether robots should be allowed to vote. In addition to the creative articles, there was one extra piece: On the bottom of the year 2100 front page was the candle lighting time in New York for January 1, 2100. Nobody asked for it or paid for it. It was just put in by the Times. The production manager of the New York Times, an Irish Catholic, was asked about this entry. His answer speaks to the eternity of our people. “We don’t know what will happen in the year 2100. It is impossible to predict the future. But you can be sure of one thing: That in the year 2100, Jewish women will be lighting Shabbos candles.”

[2] M’beer Hashabbos, p. 76.

[3] Parshas Teruma.

[4] R’ Shmuel Kaidenover lived from 1614 until 1676 and was a rav in many communities. R’ Kaidenover opposed the use of the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries in deciding Jewish law, instead supporting the use of the Tur with the Beis Yosef commentary. He went so far as to tell another rabbi to sell all of his sefarim and buy himself a set of the Tur. R’ Kaidenover’s son R’ Tzvi Hirsch was a rav in Frankfurt and the author of the Kav Hayashar. He printed much of his father’s works.

[5] Maaseh Ish, Volume 7, p. 24.

[6] Tiv Ha’nissuin, p. 288.

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