Pastor Paula White, who served as the chair of the evangelical advisory board in Donald Trump’s administration, has been deeply concerned about the dire situation in Israel in the wake of the horrific Hamas attack that left at least 1,300 dead. After engaging in a prayer session with Israel365’s Rabbi Tuly Weisz, Pastor White sent out a call to Christian women to light Shabbat candles on Friday evening to usher in the Sabbath.
The following is excerpted from Pastor White’s video appeal and reflects the informal words she spoke from her heart.
I thought to myself, “How can I do something significant?” Rabbi Tuly (Weisz, Israel365 Founder) mentioned something to me and it really grabbed my heart and I said, “This is what we have to do.”
I’m going to encourage particularly every Christian woman to join us in doing something – to light this Friday, which is the Shabbat, to light the candles.
Now there’s three reasons we want to do this and I’m going to give them to you. Along with our Jewish sisters, I’m going to ask you to pray. I’m going to ask you to donate. I’m going to ask you to rally your army, whether it’s three people or three million.
I want you to be a part. This Shabbat, I want you to light the candles [first] to honor the Sabbath. Of course, [the Jewish people] have just finished their High Holy days. You’ve heard over and over how this happened at Sukkot, and they have just finished the Torah for last year. It’s a brand new start for the Torah. So they start the Torah every year after the holidays.
They’ll start in Genesis and they’ll start with Creation and remember that God is the Creator! Hashem is the Creator of all heaven and all earth.
My hope and my faith in Christianity is that God will never forsake the apple of His eye. God will never forsake Israel.
And so, while many of us sit on the edge, and it’s very hard [for us] to hear about your sons and your daughters, but it’s also courageous to hear the commitment and everything that is going on. I think, “Would they do that in America?”
As we see what’s going on, I want you to know that our hope is in Hashem.So number one, we honor that together with you.
The second reason is to stand in solidarity with the Jewish people. The Jewish practice of lighting candles is so known, even to us. I say to Rabbi Tuly, forgive us Christians because we are always chopping up. We’re so intrigued and want to understand the foundation of our faith. We’re always chopping up holidays, God’s holy days.
But we do understand one thing that is so significant. In our Christian faith, on many of our holidays or times, we have a candlelight service. There’s a reason for that. With the Jewish people, it’s very well known to have the practice of lighting the candles.
Israel is in a very difficult, difficult time. I believe [it’s the time] for us to show we stand with you. I was on [a call] with Ambassador Friedman yesterday. It was just heart-wrenching as he was telling [us about telling] his grandchildren that there [are] still people in this world that hate the Jewish people.
This cannot be tolerated and we must stand in every single way – to hear the words echoed over and over again that this [attack that took place last Shabbat] is the most casualty since the Holocaust.
Only when we hear the reading of God’s word in Zechariah 14 can we have any comfort, because I think, “How did this happen on our watch?” Where did the world get so weakened? That’s a whole other discussion, but Christians, we must stand in solidarity.
This Friday I pray thousands, maybe even millions, of Christian women. will be lighting those candles as well in solidarity with you.
The third reason is, we light candles in memory of somebody, as a memorial. I can’t imagine what [the Jewish people} are going through.
[Even] any of us who have lost someone close to us, and many of us have [lost] loved ones, can’t even imagine the kind of suffering, trauma. [There have been] more casualties and deaths that only is surpassed by the Holocaust.
We must do everything we can. This is a Hashem move. This is a Providence move to show we honor the Sabbath, to show we stand in solidarity, to show particularly that we memorialize and remember every life that was lost and we mourn with you.
We commit to you to pray. We commit to you to serve. We commit to you to give. We commit with you to stand and to do everything in our power.
We love you deeply and we are grateful for you.
Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, a rabbinical judge in Jerusalem who heads the Haredi division of the Tikvah Fund in Israel, praised the initiative.
“We believe that the Jewish people have a mission to be a light unto the nations with the mission of empowering all people from any religions to be able to bond in the light of the true God. And by our lighting these candles on Shabbat, which is the day of Hashem, they are identifying with the light that Israel is. At this time, we must strengthen that light in response to the adversary. The hateful attacks were trying to extinguish the light of Israel. By lighting candles in unity with Israel, the nations are ensuring that the light of Israel will never be extinguished.”
The rabbi also recommended reciting appropriate Psalms, suggesting Psalm 83 or Psalm 20. In addition, prayers, either established or extemporaneous prayers from the heart would be greatly appreciated.
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, a member of the Sanhedrin who passed away a few years ago, was a strong advocate for Christians lighting Shabbat candles. Rabbi Schwartz explained that this dual Shabbat is based on a simple reading of the Bible in conjunction with a close reading of the Ten Commandments. He first cited the Talmud (Shabbat 118b) which states, “Were Israel to keep two Sabbaths as commanded, they would be immediately redeemed.” He explained that the simple reading implies two Sabbaths in a row establishing a level of regular observance. The rabbi also explained that an alternative reading might be two different Sabbaths: one of ‘remembering the Sabbath’, what the rabbi calls a ‘universal Sabbath’, and another of ‘observing the Sabbath’, what the rabbi calls a Sabbath for the Jews.
He explained that these are two different aspects of the Sabbath described in the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are listed twice in the Bible but there is a subtle difference between how the Sabbath is related to in each of these separate listings.
“The first set of tablets were written by God and the commandment to remember the Sabbath was a universal commandment,” Rabbi Schwartz explained. “That is to ‘remember’ the Sabbath. Since it was universal, it was followed by a description of creation.”
“The commandment in Deuteronomy on the tablets written by Moses was a message specifically for the Jews to ‘observe’ the Sabbath,” Rabbi Schwartz said, noting that it was followed by a description of God taking the Jews out of Egypt.
“Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and Hashem your God freed you from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore Hashem your God has commanded you to observe the Shabbat day. Deuteronomy 5:15
In Halacha, the two different verbs relating to the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments denote two different ways to relate to the obligation of the Sabbath: ‘to remember’ refers to the positive commandments of keeping the Sabbath and ‘to observe’ relates to the negative commandments of refraining from labor or acts that are restricted on the Sabbath.
Rabbi Schwartz explained that these two different versions of the Sabbath commandment generate two different types of Sabbaths; one for Jews and one for the nations. The Jews are required to both ‘remember’ and ‘observe’, performing the positive commandments as well as refraining from the 39 forbidden forms of labor. The positive mitzvah of remembering the Sabbath is encompassed in reciting kiddush (sanctifying) the Sabbath, usually performed over a glass of wine. He also recommended that non-Jews light two candles to bring in the Sabbath. This is typically performed by women. The rabbi ruled that if a non-Jew does so for the Sabbath at the proper time and day, a blessing including the name of God may be recited.
An explanation and practical guide to lighting is available on Chabad.org.
A book by David Nekrutman titled “Your Sabbath Invitation” is intended as an introduction to Shabbat for Christians, presenting the ‘why’ and the theological basis for the Shabbat that is most relevant to Christians. But is not a technical instruction manual.