Lighting candles on Friday night is not only a mitzvah that ushers in Shabbat, marking the transition from the average weekday to the holy day of rest; the weekly ritual also contains great symbolism and spirituality. The act of lighting the candles represents both shalom bayit (domestic peace) and oneg Shabbat (Sabbath joy), while the candlelight itself illuminates the home and those in it, literally shining a different, special light on one's surroundings and family.
It's no wonder, then, that the candlestick has been a staple in the Jewish home pretty much since the time Jews began lighting Shabbat candles. Candlesticks are among the preferred gifts given to Jewish wives when they marry and, in some families, are heirlooms passed from one generation to the next. Candlesticks are also a constant source of inspiration for designers, who start with the idea of a basic, functional item and interpret it in wildly different ways.
One of those is Israeli designer Hadas Shallom, who has been working with ceramics for 20 years, largely creating functional household objects and Judaica, ranging from espresso cups and saucers to candlesticks, mezuzot and wine goblets/Kiddush cups.
Shallom's candlesticks feature two lovebirds on pedestals, and are a symbol of relationships and family ties – of home, she said. The lovebirds were the offspring, so to speak, of a similarly themed modular menorah for Hanukkah, which comprised a flock of eight sweet birdies and a different colored shamash.
"I created an elegant collector's shamash for the menorah, and when the holiday ended I thought, Why enjoy these beautiful birds only once a year when you can delight in them weekly?"
$53 for a set at Shallom's online shop
Marit Meisler, a native of Old Jaffa, founded her studio, ceMMent Design, in New York, and later returned to her hometown where she creates housewares and contemporary Judaica works that challenge preconceived notions of what certain objects should look like. Candlesticks were the first product she designed in an attempt to re-examine traditional objects using a most untraditional material: concrete.
"Despite the fact that concrete is generally perceived as a cold, industrial material, I decided to use it to craft housewares and holy ritual objects that have warm, tactile and delicate characteristics," Meisler said. "In choosing concrete, I synthesized the sacred and the secular."
Meisler's candlesticks come in different heights, and she also makes versions suited to tealights. Additional concrete creations include mezuzot and hamsot (traditional hand-shaped amulets used to ward off the evil eye), all of which transform the material generally seen in large slabs or blocks into something smaller and more intimate.
Meisler's works are sold at museum shops across Israel and are in the permanent collection of the Jewish Museum in New York. Prices vary; visit ceMMent Design for more information
Artist and designer Talila Abraham also strives to blur boundaries – between old and new, delicate and durable, textile and metalwork.
Her "lace metal" objects are crafted from stainless steel and aluminum – again, traditionally industrial materials – but resemble dainty lace textures and patterns. Using her unique process, Abraham creates everything from mezuzot and dreidels to serving platters and pictures frames. Think old-time handiwork and embroidery, like the kind your beloved bubbe used to make, updated for the 21st century using advanced metal-processing technologies.
Abraham's candlesticks also range in size and shape: There are taller ones that feature elegant floral patterns and smaller votive-size ones that look like shiny, silvery doilies that are tough enough to support candles. "The candlesticks, with their clean and precise look, are a contemporary substitute for traditional silver candlesticks," Abraham said. "The contrast between the different backgrounds – between black and white and the stainless steel lace – creates an original and unexpected intersection in the world of Judaica."
Abraham's works are sold at museum shops across Israel and in select locations in the United States; candlestick prices range from 1250 shekels (about $360) to 1355 shekels (about $390); visit Metalaceart for more information
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