Why do Jews look at their nails during Avdala?

From Yehuda Shurpin - 07/18/2018. When Shabbat ends, during Avdala we say a blessing over a special avdol candle and, as usual, raising our hands, look at our nails in its light.

Benefits of a candle flame

The main reason for this custom is that you should not pronounce a blessing on the fire if you are not close enough to its light and you cannot distinguish one from the other 2 coins thanks to it. Therefore, they came up with this method and decided: instead of coins, we examine our nails in the light of an avdol candle in order to make sure that the border between nails and skin is visible. (2) And the choice in favor of nails was not so simple.

Symbol of blessing

Shabbat is the time when we move away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and strive to return to the spiritual purity in which Adam lived in Gan Eden. Before the start of a new week on Shabbat, we gain strength, and when we do Avdala, we look at our nails, which, among other things, are also evidence of a strong ongoing blessing - they never stop growing! And, looking at them, we pray that a bracha of the same strength will accompany us throughout the week and bring prosperity and success. (3)

But, of course, there are other reasons as well.

What's left of Adam and Hava's clothes

According to one of the Midrashim, originally Adam and Chava were created so that their skin was covered with a “nail layer” - horny plates, due to which they did not need additional clothing. (4)

One of the reasons why we say the blessing over the avdol candle is that when, as a result of the fall of man, the divine light ceased to illuminate the world, and the sun began to set and marked the approaching end of Shabbat, true night came for the first time. This really scared Adam. Being expelled from Gan Eden, he thought that this darkness was part of the punishment and would certainly swallow him up. Then God inspired Adam to such an idea: he took two stones, hit them against each other - and a fire broke out. At that moment, Adam offered up a prayer of thanksgiving to the Almighty and said: "Blessed are you, Lord, our God ... who created the light of the flame."

And when Adam looked at himself by the light of the fire, he saw that the “clothes” that covered his body, similar to nails, had disappeared, and the only reminder of it remained on the fingers and toes in the form of nails. (5)

Fire from under the nails

According to one of the comments, the first fire hewn by Adam actually came out from under his nails. Therefore, we look at our nails, pronouncing a blessing on the fire. (6)

Suppression of negative energy

Some explain that as we approach the beginning of everyday life, we must prepare ourselves to start fighting negativity, aggression, and responding to the challenges of fate again. Negative energy in the human body is often associated with nails (which is why it is customary to put them in order before Shabbat, and cut off pieces must be disposed of in a special way - thrown into water or, preferably, burned (7) - etc.). When we look at our nails in the light of an avdol candle, we seem to “weaken” the impurity energy in them due to holiness. (8)

Dual nature of things

This seems to be a paradox. After all, we have already said that nails symbolize blessing, and now we are talking about the impurity lurking in them. How can this be understood?

Recalling the sin of Adam, the nails symbolize that even in such a small creation as nails, the forces of holiness and impurity can be combined. The inner part of the nail, adjacent to the finger, personifies the purity of the “nail” shell of a person that was originally granted to him, and the outer part, which goes beyond the nail bed, indicates that excessive growth can lead to an increase in the development of deficiencies, which looks like dirt , which accumulates under too long nails.