My Home, My Templebased on the Torah of HaRav Yochanan Zweig, shlita
And you shall command Bnei Yisroel that they should take for you clear olive oil... (Shemos 27:20)
This week's parsha opens with the responsibility for the Kohanim to prepare and light the Menorah in the Mishkan every night. Bal Haturim (ad loc) comments that the word "tetzaveh- you shall command" has the same numerical value as "nashim tzivah - women are commanded," referring to the obligation that women have to light Shabbos candles on Friday night.
This seems to be a rather odd place to derive the obligation for women to light Shabbos candles. First of all, women didn't light the Menorah in the Mishkan or the Beis Hamikdosh, and secondly, what does lighting Shabbos candles have to do with the Menorah being lit in the Mishkan?
The Gemara (Shabbos 23b) asks: If a poor person has only enough money for either Chanukah candles or Shabbos candles, which takes precedence? The Gemara answers that lighting Shabbos candles takes precedence because it brings shalom to the house. Rashi (ad loc) explains that this is because the family is miserable sitting in the dark. This is based on the Gemara (Shabbos 25b) that derives a hint to lighting Shabbos candles from Yirmiyahu's lament of the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdosh: "My soul despaired of having peace, I have forgotten goodness."
But this is difficult to understand. If candles on Shabbos take precedence over Chanukah candles because they promote shalom in the home, why does this only apply to Shabbos candles? Do we not need shalom in the home every day of the week? By this reasoning lighting candles inside the home should always take precedence to Chanukah candles (which are usually lit outside and even when lit inside it is forbidden to use them for light). Why is this precedence specifically only on Shabbos?
The answer is a rather illuminating insight into the purpose of lighting Shabbos candles. Shabbos is the time when the presence of the Shechina descends to the world. This has been discussed at length in a prior edition of INSIGHTS, and is derived from the possuk"Vayanach Bayom Hashevii." This doesn't mean that Hashem "rested" on the seventh day, it means Hashem "descended." This is the concept of kabbalas Shabbos; waiting to welcome the presence of the Shechina which descends to the world on Shabbos.
This is also what the Mishkan and Beis Hamikdosh represent; Hashem's presence in the world. In other words, our wives are charged on Friday nights to turn our homes into a "Mikdash me'at" - a miniature model of the Beis Hamikdosh. This auspicious time is when the Shechina descends into the world, and we want to be able to incorporate it into our homes. This is why we derive the obligation of lighting candles Friday night from the lighting of the Menorah in the Beis Hamikdosh. This is also why Shabbos candles are alluded to in the prophet Yirmiyahu's lament of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh; on Friday nights we are reconstructing a home for the Shechina, which was exiled with the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh.
The concept of shalom is very prominent on Shabbos. This is why we sing Shalom Aleichem when we first come into our homes upon returning from Shul. The added presence of the Shechina on Shabbos is the foundation of real Shalom Bayis. The Gemara (Sotah 17a) says that when Hashem dwells in a marriage then you have a proper ish and isha (man and woman), but when he doesn't a fire consumes them (the yud and heh in Hashem's name is added to each partner; without the yud and heh you have merely "aish - fire" (Rashi)). On Shabbos, we must focus on making our homes a miniature model of the Beis Hamikdosh and incorporate the presence of the Shechina within our family.