Many Lamps as the Sabbath Departs

To eagerly jump into mundane life once the Sabbath departs would suggest that we did not accord the day with the honor it deserves.

ShabbatJun 13, 2014

ShabbatJun 13, 2014

Ancient middle-eastern lamp with Jerusalem in the background. (Photo credit ©: Bigstock/Gino Santa Maria)


According to Isaiah, we are to treat the holy Sabbath as “honored” (Isaiah 58:13). In Judaism, we accomplish this by treating the Sabbath like a royal, distinguished guest visiting our home: we clean, decorate, and illuminate our home; we prepare fine foods and wear respectful clothes.

To eagerly jump into mundane life once the Sabbath departs would suggest that we did not accord the day with the honor it deserves. In keeping with this idea, we have a custom of hosting a final farewell meal after the Sabbath is over called Melaveh Malkah, which means “escorting the Queen.”

This meal is explained in The Sabbath Table:

At a Melaveh Malkah meal, it is considered ideal to set the table just as for each of the three Sabbath meals, complete with meat, wine, and two loaves of bread. However, since most people are not hungry after a full day of eating, it is considered acceptable just to have a little snack like cake or fruit. Stories about the righteous feature prominently at this meal. In Chasidic communities it is customary to tell stories about the Ba’al Shem Tov or other great rebbes. For followers of Yeshua, it would be appropriate to tell stories about our Master and his disciples as well as other great heroes and luminaries in our movement.

In Acts 20, we read the story about Paul’s visit to Troas, where the believers were gathered on the first day of the week. The Sabbath Table explains that this may be an ancient example of something similar to Melaveh Malkah:

Rather than Sunday as is commonly assumed, this event could have happened on Saturday night. The “first day of the week” begins at nightfall on Saturday. Paul intended to depart the next day—Sunday—because travel is forbidden on the Sabbath. Since this gathering began in the evening, it makes perfect sense that Paul’s speech would extend until midnight… Thus it appears that the disciples joined together to share a meal on Saturday night.

A surprising correspondence can also be seen between Acts and the Mishnah Berurah, a code of Jewish law penned at the beginning of the twentieth century. Whereas Acts 20:8 mentions the seemingly superfluous detail about “many lamps” present in the room with the disciples at Troas, the Mishnah Berurah instructs:

A person should always set his table on the evening following the Sabbath in order to escort the Sabbath, even if he does not need more than an olive-sized piece. For this reason there are some who have the custom to have many lamps on the evening following the Sabbath, more so than on weekdays. (Mishnah Berurah, Sabbath Laws 300:3)

Today, many people light two lights for Melaveh Malkah, just like on the Sabbath, but the wording “many lamps” seems to suggest more. Does the Mishnah Berurah describe a tradition that existed almost two thousand years earlier, observed by the early Messianic Jewish community? We may not know, but in any case it is clear that the disciples treated the Sabbath with the greatest honor.

About the Author: Aaron Eby is the Vine of David Director and an author and translator for FFOZ. He was the chief translator of The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels and works to develop liturgical resources that will strengthen Messianic Judaism. More articles by Aaron Eby

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