Sunrise, Sunset and the Sabbath Candles

If you are Jewish and light the Sabbath candles every Friday, you are so aware of the lengthening of the days as we move through January.

Lighting the Sabbath candles marks the beginning of the day of rest. In Hebrew the word Sabbath is Shabbos. Shabbos candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset on a Friday night. Doing so is a great mitzvah (good deed). What time to light the candles is determined by the latitude and longitude of your city. How far the city where you live is from the equator, and the prime meridian, dictates when the sun will set.

My synagogue has a year-long calendar magnet to remind observers when to light. Even in a small state such as Connecticut, lighting time can vary. Another good place to determine what time to light is the internet. Jewish newspapers offer candle lighting times and there a few other sources, too.

If you happen to be in say Oklahoma City, OK, and are not sure when the Sabbath starts, find the time for sunset there and subtract 18 minutes to determine lighting time.

“Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years, one season following another, laden with happiness and tears“, from a song from the play Fiddler on the Roof. Now seem so easy as the days in January lengthen and candle lighting time is moving toward 4:30.

Last Friday candle lighting was 4:16, a mere 13 minute more of daylight that seemed like an extra hour and room for many little last minute chores.

The increased amount of daylight reminded me of an Aesop Fable. When Aesop complained to the wise man that his house was too small, the wise man kept telling him to bring in more animals. When Aesop was finally told he could release all the extra animals, the same small house suddenly seemed to be just the right size.

Evelyn Marshak
Waterbury, CT © 2012

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