Shabbat 20 - Lighting Shabbat Candles
One has to enjoy Shabbat and honor it. As the first step, one lights a lamp, in order to conduct the Shabbat meal in a lighted room. Some say that the lamp is for enjoyment, since it is impossible to completely enjoy a meal in a dark house; others say that that the lamp or candles are to honor Shabbat.
Some materials should not be used for the lamp's wick, because they will not produce a steady even flame. The first one is the bark of a cedar tree. But it is just wood, unfit for a wick!? - There is wooly substance in the bark, called bast. Still, it is not good enough.
The next material unfit for a wick is uncarded flax. Flax stems are first soaked (retted) and then beaten (scutched) to break them apart and to release the fiber. The fibers are then separated (hackled, or carded). Before they are separated, flax does not draw oil well.
Another prohibited material is willow tree. Ravin and Abaye were once walking in the Tamrurita valley when the saw some willow trees. Ravin said to Abaye, "This is the will tree that we learned about, forbidden to be used as a wick on Shabbat." Abaye replied to him, "But that is just a tree!" Ravin then peeled some bark off one of the tress and showed Abaye the wooly substance within.
Art: Godfried Schalcken - Man with a Candle