Match Boxes and Holders
In different ceremonies, such as Havdalah, lighting the Hanukkah Menorah, and more, we use fire. Since the latter plays such a pivotal role in several rituals and customs, there is an abundance of things that are used when lighting fire: candles, candlesticks, lighters and matchbox holders. While it is possible to use standard lighters or matches for the performance of the different commandments that involve lighting candles, it is customary for us Jews to go to great lengths in order to “beautify," or “enhance" the mitzvah. For this reason many choose to buy elaborate matchbox holders.
When buying a matchbox holder, you can either go very affordable, or quite pricey. For example, if you do not want something too extraordinary or flashy you can go for a simple black holder, slightly bigger than the matchbox itself. If you want to make sure it is known that the specific matchbox is meant to be used for the different customs and matzos, you attach to it a thin silver-plated place that says “for Shabbos and Yom To." If you like this type of simple idea but wish it was just a little more ornate, you can have different Biblical passages engraved on the other side of the matchbox holder, or images of Jerusalem and Jewish symbols such as Star of David ,dove with an olive-branch, and more.
Painted wood is a very popular material out of which many Judaica items are made. Often hand-made, these gorgeous painted wood holders come in a variety of colours and shapes. In addition, they come in different themes: birds, animals, star-signs, the twelve tribes, and many more. If this matchbox holder is meant to be used as a gift for a couple, it might be a wonderful idea to personalise it. This is achieved by engraving the couple’s names, both in English and in Hebrew. If it is for someone’s birthday or any other occasion, find something to engrave on the holder and thus personalise it.
If you have been to the Old City of Jerusalem lately, you may have spotted beautiful matchbox holders made of Jerusalem stone and painted glass. The combination of the two is remarkable. Some of these holders are meant to be used only on Shabbat, and so on one side they’re engraved with “For Shabbos" and on the other they will show an image of the Jerusalem wall. If you want, however, there are many other such matchbox holders that are more general, bearing different Biblical passages, Jewish symbols, and more.
Matchboxes and Holders Guide
Fire plays a prominent role in several commandments, or Mitzvot, specifically for the lighting of candles. Consequently, matchboxes and matchbox holders became a form of Judaica art, being decorated with ornate designs and being made of expensive materials.
What are Matchboxes and Holders?
Match boxes and holders are Judaica items that hold books or boxes of matches that are used when lighting candles at the beginning of Shabbat, Hanukkah candles and to light the candle used during Havdalah at the end of Shabbat and Jewish holidays in which work is forbidden, such as Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot.
Match boxes and holders are usually made from a metal such as a silver, nickel or pewter or are made from wood, which may be lacquered and painted over. Unpainted wooden matchboxes are usually made from Mahogany or Maple. Matchboxes have two distinct designs. The first, more popular design, is as a simple frame into which a box of matches is placed and comes with a tray for used matches that may be engraved with text. The other design has a similar frame, but it sits atop a stem and base. Matchboxes may also vary in size and shape, appearing as boxes, as well as large three dimensional triangles.
Because match boxes and their holders are used on Hanukkah as well as at the beginning of Shabbat and Holidays when lighting candles, they typically feature decorations related to Shabbat, such as candlesticks, Kiddush Cups and Havdalah sets. Other decorations include floral patterns, Jerusalem, animals, Stars of David, the Western Wall and crowns. These decorations are engraved into metal match boxes and holders and are painted over lacquered wood. Matchboxes may also be decorated with rows of stones that echo those worn on the High Priest’s - the Kohen Gadol - breastplate that represent the twelve tribes of Israel.
Matchboxes are frequently engraved with text related to Shabbat, such as “Shabbat Shalom” and “Lichvod Shabbat”, which translate as the traditional Shabbat greeting “Shabbath of Peace to you” and “For the holy Sabbath”. Matchboxes may also be engraved with the text of the blessings made when lighting candles at the start of Shabbat or the text of the Havdalah ceremony. Text engravings are in Hebrew, but the font can be either traditional or modern.
Match boxes and holders can be personalized with engravings, which typically are names together with the date of an important life cycle event such as a wedding or Bat Mitzvah.