Kabbalat Shabbat, Cold Spring, New York, 2008

Kabbalat Shabbat, Cold Spring, New York, 2008

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The Sabbath candles have been lit. The women and girls cover their eyes as they recite the blessing over the ‰flames. For millennia, this is how the weekly Sabbath has been heralded in Jewish communities across the globe. According to the rabbis of the Talmud, there are two reasons for lighting Sabbath candles—one practical and one spiritual. The practical reason, which they called shalom bayit or “tranquility in the home,” has to do with the fact that Jewish law prohibits the kindling of lights during the Sabbath. So rather than having people stumble around in the dark on Friday night, it made sense to light a ‰flame before the Sabbath began. The spiritual reason is called oneg Shabbat or “Sabbath joy.” The lights we kindle simply add to the feelings of celebration, warmth, and peace that typify the Jewish Sabbath.

This scene takes place at Surprise Lake Camp, a Jewish summer camp outside of New York City. Ozeri calls this photograph Kabbalat Shabbat, which means, literally, “welcoming the Sabbath.” Kabbalat Shabbat is also the name of the prayer service traditionally recited on Friday evenings. The Kabbalat Shabbat service, which includes selections from the book of Psalms, as well as the beautiful liturgical poem “Lecha Dodi” was introduced in the 16th century by a group of mystics living in the city of Tzfat, Israel. The mystics would gather on the edge of town dressed in white and sing songs of praise to greet the Sabbath bride.


Sample Texts:

זָכוֹר אֶת-יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת, לְקַדְּשׁוֹ. שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תַּעֲבֹד, וְעָשִׂיתָ כָּל-מְלַאכְתֶּךָ. וְיוֹם, הַשְּׁבִיעִי–שַׁבָּת, לַה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ: לֹא-תַעֲשֶׂה כָל-מְלָאכָה אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ, עַבְדְּךָ-וַאֲמָתֶךָ ובְהֶמְתֶּךָ, וְגֵרְךָ, אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ.

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God: you shall not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements.
– Exodus (Shemot) 20:8-10


The Holy One lends every person an extra soul on the eve of the Sabbath, and withdraws it at the close of the Sabbath.
– Babylonian Talmud, Beitza 16a


He who feels in his heart a genuine tie with the life of his people cannot possibly conceive of the existence of the Jewish people apart from “Queen Sabbath.” We can say without exaggeration that more than Israel preserved the Sabbath, the Sabbath preserved Israel.
– Ahad Ha’am, Al Parashat Derahim


אַשְׁרֵי הַגַּפְרוּר שֶׁנִּשְׂרַף וְהִצִּית לֶהָבוֹת
אַשְׁרֵי הַלֶּהָבָה שֶׁבָּעֲרָה בְּסִתְרֵי לְבָבוֹת
אַשְׁרֵי הַלְּבָבוֹת שֶׁיָּדְעוּ לַחְדּלֹ בְּכָבוֹד
אַשְׁרֵי הַגַּפְרוּר שֶׁנִּשְׂרַף וְהִצִּית לֶהָבוֹת

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling ‰flame.
Blessed is the ‰flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake.
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling ‰flame.
– Hannah Senesh