Towards the end of the parsha, Yizhak brings Rivka to Sarah’s tent. (Breishit 24:67)

“And Yizhak brought her into the tent of his mother, Sarah, he married Rivka and she became his wife; and he loved her and Yizhak was comforted after his mother’s death.”

Rashi explains:

Into the tent of his mother, Sarah – He brought her into the tent and she became the likeness of Sarah, his mother, in other words, she was like Sarah, his mother. For as long as Sarah was alive, a candle burned in her tent from one Shabbat eve to the next, her dough was blessed and a cloud hung over her tent. These blessings ceased upon Sarah’s death, but where resumed when Rivka entered the tent.

With Sarah, the candle burned from one Shabbat eve to the next. What is the significance of this?

The commentary, Me’or V’shemesh (Devarim rimazei yom bet shel Succot) explains this well:

It seems that this expression is trying to hint that Hashem gave us the Shabbat for resting and the holidays for rejoicing to remind the Jewish nation of G-d’s presence, in order that every Jew will let the holiness carry over to the weekdays as well, while preparing from one Shabbat to the next.

This is our Sages explanation mentioned in Rashi: that as long as Sarah was alive, the candle in her tent burned from one Shabbat eve to the next, implying that the influence of the holiness of one Shabbat remained until the next.

The essence of Shabbat is to make the connection between holy and secular. The candle that burned from one Shabbat to the next symbolizes the connection between one Shabbat to the following one, joining all of the weekdays between them. Sarah’s deeds were done on Shabbat eve, whereas their influence carried over throughout the week.

By us, the candles are extinguished after Shabbat, however, the lighting of the candles takes place before Shabbat. Our lighting the candles close to the beginning of Shabbat makes the initial connection between the secular and the holy. This is especially obvious from the custom many Jewish women have of first lighting the candles, then covering their eyes, blessing the candles and finally opening their eyes. The lighting is done on the weekday (for the holy day). That same light immediately becomes holy because of the blessing. Suddenly, we open our eyes and the candle which had been secular is now holy!

But, there is an additional aspect here. With Sarah, and afterwards with Rivka, the candle burned from one Shabbat to the next. Of what does this remind us? It reminds us of the Holy Temple, of the continually lighted lamp that miraculously burned all night and all day until dusk (See Ramban Shemot 27:20; Ritba Shabbat 22; in contrast to Rashi of the same verse in Shemot). Such was the special miracle of the lamp in the Temple (and with the show-bread from Shabbat to Shabbat – see Mishna Menachot 11:7) and such was the special miracle with Sarah – the candle which burned from Shabbat to Shabbat.

From here we learn that the Shabbat candles are comparable to the lamp in the Temple.  This parallelism can be seen in Talmud Shabbat 21:

Rami Bar Chama learned: The wicks and the oils that the Sages told us not to use on Shabbat could also not be used in the Temple, because it is written ‘to cause the lamps to burn continually’. He learned and said: This was in order that the flame will burn on its own,  not caused by something else.

The Shabbat candles are equivalent to the candles in the Temple. The purpose of the candle is to bring Hashem’s light (influence) to the world. Therefore, a good quality wick is necessary, so that the kindling fire will remain until the fire takes hold of the flame and the flame rises on its own, without any fixing or bending later on. (Rashi Shabbat 21) In this way, the light of Shabbat has to enter our soul naturally, giving light on its own, “that the flame will burn on its own”.

There is a wonderful fusion here of the secular world with the holy world, of the world of the sanctification of time (Shabbat) with the world of the sanctification of place (the Temple).

The woman has the privilege to do all this, thereby transforming her house on Shabbat to a diminutive Temple, and thus it is written in Tikunei HaZohar (Tikun24):

The woman must set the candles on Shabbat eve on the right side so that they will be considered as if she set the Menora (candelabra) in the South and the Table in the North… they say that if these are the angels descending with the Shechina (Divine Presence): this is not a secular place, but a holy one where Hashem dwells.

The woman has the privilege of turning her house into Hashem’s dwelling place on Shabbat by entering the light of the Shechina into her house!

This is what we learn from Sarah and from Rivka.  Every Shabbat the women of Israel have the privilege of letting the Shechina permeate our homes, transforming the secular world in which we were immersed until now, into a holy world