The ball drops at midnight. The rooster crows at dawn. Every hour on the hour, and at 15-minute intervals, the bells clang. The train pulls out of the station each morning at 7:49, whether or not you’re onboard. And the library will invariably close 5 minutes before the posted time.

They will have you know that Shabbat comes in 18 minutes before sunset, a time that occurs at this latitude sometime between 4:10 PM and 8:15, depending on the season. See an almanac or chabad.org for further details.

The hands circling the face of the clock can’t tell you everything, of course. They don’t understand that sometimes Shabbat holds back, waiting until long after you’ve started the party and perhaps not even crossing the foyer until after the guests have started trickling out.

The schedule’s for your benefit. Shabbat comes and goes as it pleases.


Candle secret

Do you know why we light candles for Shabbat? I do. It’s because their fire is the same light as every person has glowing inside of them. Some people have big lights and some aren’t so bright—and some people’s lights even make everyone around them brighter! If you pay attention, you know that everyone’s the lights change through the day, or flicker or turn ugly colors when bad stuff happens. Sometimes, just because someone gets sleepy his light starts to shrink.

So that’s why there’s the candles… because if you watch, the fire goes inside the person who lights the wick. Then at least for a few minutes it makes their shine fill up the room!



Don’t ornament Shabbat with diamonds. Never bedeck her with perfectly faceted jewels—not a single one. Do not ask her to condescend to rubies darker than wine, to topaz that glows like orange blossom honey. No sapphires smooth as tide pools, nor emeralds bright as a utopian rainforest.

Because when light pours into these precisely cut prisms, it cracks and breaks. The perfect stream is disrupted to rainbows, stretched red to violet and scattered across the floor.

Shabbat’s wrists are bare, her long neck unadorned. Nothing weighs upon her earlobes, nor her silken fingers. Shabbat does not take in light but instead collects the divided colors, unifying the fragments. After the spectrum passes through her it emerges in full photonic splendor, pure and radiant as the sun.