There are three mitzvaot that are especially sacred to the Jewish woman.
These are: Shabbat Candles, Lighting, Challah, and Taharat Hamishpacha (Family Sanctity).
The Shabbat candles have ushered the holiness of Shabbat into the Jewish home for thousands of years – ever since Matriarch Sarah illuminated her tent with her Friday night lights.
The primary function of the Shabbat candles is to bring
peace and tranquility into the home and to enhance our enjoyment of the
Shabbat meal. The candles also serve to remind us of the spiritual
dimensions of Shabbat: just as a physical candle reveals the otherwise
unseen contents of a room, so, too, in a spiritual sense, the Shabbat
candles reveal the unseen and intangible G-dly energy
which permeates our existence.
The mitzvah of lighting Shabbat candles rests upon all members of the household. But it is the woman of the house, in her role as the mainstay of the home, who does the actual lighting. (If there is no woman in the house, or if she is unable to light, the obligation falls upon the man.)
The Shabbat candles are lit Friday evening, eighteen minutes before sunset.
The time of candle lighting is an especially auspicious time for private prayer. From behind covered eyes, women throughout history have whispered prayers for health and happiness, and for children who will illuminate the world with good.
Take a few moments to whisper your own prayers, allowing the unique holiness of the time to permeate your prayers and convey them on high.
When our ancestors settled the land of Israel, one of the many gifts they were commanded to give to the Kohanim (priests who served in the Holy Temple) was Challah. In today’s modern world, the popular usage of the word Challah refers to the two braided loaves of bread served at the traditional Shabbat meal. Its basic, Biblical meaning, however, refers to the piece of dough that is separated and consecrated to G-d with the blessing “…who has sanctified us and commanded us to separate the challah”, every time we bake bread. It also represents the goodness of heart you wish your family to embrace in the giving of yourselves to others. Jewish women throughout the world have practiced this beautiful, lifeaffirming mitzvah for hundreds of generations.
Today, the destruction of the Holy Temple does not permit us to
actually give the challah to the Kohanim. However, in
remembrance of this gift and in anticipation of the redemption and the
rebuilding of the Holy Temple, we still observe the mitzvah of
separating the challah. We remove the piece of dough and make the
blessing, burning it instead of eating it, as its holiness
practical use of it in any way.
As a woman, the potential giver of life, you hold the power to
elevate your home and family from the physically mundane to the spiritually
sublime. The adherence to the Laws of Family Sanctity and Mikvah give
you the opportunity
to invite G-d into the most intimate area of your life, bringing G-dliness to every aspect of your lives and impacting the soul of any child conceived. Your observance brings holiness and blessing, not only to your most physical self, but sanctifies your entire family and your entire home. Immersion in the mikvah is a Biblical commandment of the highest ordinance.
The Jewish marriage sanctifies husband and wife. Taharat Hamishpacha (Family Sanctity) observance introduces times of intimate separation and reunion as part of a cycle in married life. Separation begins with the onset of the menstrual flow. It is a time when the depth of the husband-wife relationship is expressed without physical intimacy. It is a period of anticipation and preparation for mikvah immersion. The reunion which follows holds the highest potentialfor sanctity in marriage.
Mikvah: A natural body of water or a gathering of water that has a designated connection to natural water. The mikvah pool is designed specifically for immersion, according to the complex rules and customs of Jewish law. Water is the primary source of all living things. It has the power to purify, to restore and replenish life. A mikvah must be filled with living waters from a flowing source that has never been dormant, such as fresh spring water, rainwater, or even melted snow. The water is kept under strict hygienic control, cleaned daily and chlorinated. This natural water is stored in a separate holding tank that has an opening which allows the natural water to ‘kiss’ and mingle with the city water that fills the actual immersion pool.
Each of the above mentioned three mitzvot are of singular
importance to the Jewish woman, as the Akeret Habayit – foundation of
the home. The times these mitzvot are performed are filled with a
unique sanctity and opportunity whereupon the very gates of heaven are open wide
for your personal prayers and requests.