Article - Festival Lamps 5741 (1980)
Festivals 5741 (1980)
As the sun sets on Friday night, the Sabbath is greeted by prayers in the synagogue and by the kindling of lights by the women in their homes (just before the Sabbath enters). According to a popular belief, angels hover over the lights, and this led to the custom of the women covering their faces immediately after the kindling so as not to gaze on the faces of the angels.
There are no fixed laws concerning the shape of the lamps and the number of lights. As a rule, not less than two, referring to the commandment "Remember and Observe the Sabbath," are kindled. Some families kindle an additional light for each member of the family. Among European Jews, hanging oil lamps or candlesticks are customary. Generally, Jews of Asia and North Africa use metal oil lamps with spouts for the wick, or glass oil lamps hung on chains.
The Jews of Germany and Central Europe used hanging Sabbath metal lamps consisting of a central column to which a star-shaped oil container was attached, with a basin to catch the drippings beneath. This type of lamp came into general use in the 12th century, but the Jews continued to use it at a much later date. Thus, from the 16th century, it was known in German as Judenstern, the Jews' Star. As time passed, more elaborate versions made their appearance with a varying number of spouts. The star-shaped oil container, owing to the long tradition behind its use, retained a kind of sanctity. During the week, the lamp was hung high up; it was lowered from the ceiling for the Sabbath by means of a trammel hook. From the eighteenth century on, lamps with a star-shaped container and made of brass, pewter or silver were also used in Poland, Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia.
Hanging Sabbath lamps were also found among the Sephardi communities of Holland and England in the 17h century. They generally consisted of five parts hanging one under the other. The oil container was in the shape of a bowl, with concave hemispheres forming the cups along the sides.
In North Africa, particularly in Morocco, memorial lights also served as Sabbath lights. A memorial lamp for a woman was called kandil and was generally made of a metal container with spouts for the wick. A memorial oil lamp for a man was called a kas and consisted of a glass bowl hung from chains. These lamps were hung in the home and were lit principally on Sabbath and Festival Eves. At the end of the year of mourning for the deceased they were handed over to the synagogue.
These three stamps of the "Joyous Festivals" series represent 3 Sabbath lamps that can be seen at the Israel Museum. The lamps originate from Holland (18th century), Germany (18th century) and Morocco (19th century).