Class 21 - Kindling the Flame
Rebbetzin Leah Kohn
This week, Women in Judaism presents a cyberspace anthology of student
reflections on Shabbat candle lighting. We received an overwhelming
response to our request for your input and are unable to reprint each
submission. Rather, we have reprinted a selection that represents the
diversity of your thoughts and conveys the common themes of your
reflections as a group. Thanks to all for participating and keep in
touch. P.S. keep your eyes on your mailbox for a primer on how to light
Shabbat candles, to be sent out in the next few days.
Kindling the Flame:
An Anthology of Student Reflections on Lighting Shabbat Candles
(When I light Shabbos candles...)
I feel the peace that can only come from Heaven drop onto me as I say
the blessings. I say each word intensely, dwelling on its meaning before
going to the next. I am a single parent; my son usually watches me
silently, I hear his breathing in the stillness and know that he is
soaking up Judaism with his essence. Usually I am filled with
thanksgiving, and I spend more time thanking Hashem for my blessings,
rather than asking Him for my needs. But I know He wants to hear my
needs, and so I pray for my family (extended), my friends, Rabbi's
families that we are close to, and finally for ourselves.
I feel the line of Jewish women that have come before me, stretching
back through ...and I know that I am now part of the chain, lighting so
that those who come after me can take part. This thought brings me great
comfort, I who once lived to rebel, to be apart, now I am a part. I
once thought that to be strong meant to stand alone, now all I want is
to be part of the fold, to be safe and warm and comforted, and my
Shabbos candles do just that for me. They tell me I am home.
Thank you for inspiring me to write this down. I have wanted to for
some time, and just never got around to it.
When I light the Shabbos candles, I feel like I am having a private
audience with Hashem. It's a time of peace and I try to put the week's
strife out of my mind. When I light my candles I feel a separation between
Holy and mundane. It's a very special time for me.
I have many different emotions when lighting Shabbos candles.
1) Lighting Shabbos candles enables me to feel enshrouded in peace and
safety. 2) I pray for my children and feel that Hashem is listening and
that there is less distraction. 3) I feel that at least I am doing
Lighting Shabbat Candles:
Every Friday night, when I light candles, I feel such a spiritual "rush" and
an intense connection with Hashem. The fact that I, as a woman, have been
given this job of commencing Shabbat through the lighting of the candles is,
to me, a great responsibility and an awesome privilege. I take the
when I am lighting to ask Hashem to fulfill all my prayers, since the
holiness and closeness that I feel to Hashem at this time-just a few minutes
each week-is truly incredible, and I just can't help but use this time to
pray for my loved ones. My personal opinion is that if more women
internalized the beauty and meaning of this special mitzvah, there would not
be such bitterness that men are more spiritually connected to God
As a single woman living on her own, I light not for a family, but only for
myself. These are my thoughts while doing so.
Lighting candles for me is a special time during the week. I am about to
bring in the Shabbat, and I am forcing all of the craziness of the week to
subside. I focus all of my energy thinking about Shabbat. I literally stop
all of the frenziness, slow down, take a deep breath and make a distinction.
After I light, I take the time to think about people that I want to pray
for: MIA's, Jonathan Pollard, Iranian Jews, sick people, and my family. In
addition, I also ask G-d for guidance in my life; I want to be able to make
the correct decisions in all facets of my life.
Those are my thoughts.
Each Friday night, when I gather my three children around the table to
usher in Shabbat, I always try to give them something to think about
before the lighting. I keep the thought simple and brief. For example,
I might say, "Are you ready to let go of the work week and bring in the
holy Shabbos?" or "Just think how many other Jewish women and families
are lighting their Shabbos candles right now? We are all connected."
Sometimes I make a reference to the parasha or new month. "This is the
first shabbos of Adar, the month of simcha. Let's think for a moment of
what makes us happy." I might remind them of someone who needs our
prayers. I tell them how I pray for peace in our home and that they may grow
to be Torah Jews.
By offering these brief thoughts before candle lighting, I catch my
children when they are attentive. I give them something to remember and
to carry with them. It is my hope that these small reflections will help
them grow spiritually, shabbos to shabbos, year after year.
Shabbos candles ... a time for reflection and letting a deep breath out
that my worries and concerns are also those of Hashem's. I love the
atmosphere of eating with the candles, and my candleabra is a very cherished
possession. It is a time to take time for my thoughts and prayers. It is also
part of the theme I enjoy teaching my daughters that since the destruction
of the Temple, the shabbos table is the alter we decorate to honor Hashem. By
setting the table in a beautiful way--we get to bring "Martha Stewart"
decorating in a meaningful way, and we get to do it every week...
When I light the candles each Friday night, I feel connected most with my
mother, who will light them an hour later in Chicago, and my grandmothers
of blessed memory, whose presence I feel each time. I can look backward in
time and space to all the generations of women who have lit these candles,
and said these prayers, for the sanctification of HaShem and the hopes of
leading better lives as better people.
...I have two daughters, 5 and 4, who light with me. The experience is not
a meditative one, just a prosaic one. They usually fight about which candle,
whether to pick up the whole stick or just the candle, and then we wave our
arms three times and cover our eyes and recite the blessing out loud.
Immediately thereafter, they are shouting, "good Shabbos!" to me and the rest
of the family and there is exactly no time to do any of the other meditating.
However, I hope they will store a good memory of lighting candles with me
and when the time comes, do the same with their kids.
I come from Hendon, London, UK. For me, I have had the excitement of
lighting candles all my life and as a child I always wanted to "strike the
match". But I never felt anything more than just lighting a candle and
feeling that it was Friday night with my family.
Now 20 years later I am newly observant and the candles are lit by me every
Friday. I make sure that my husband always stands by me when I light as I
have only ever kept this one "mitzvah" (obligation) my whole life and in my
home all the family watched as my mum lit candles but nothing else was
observed. Now when I light I copy the other women I have seen in this
community who not only say the blessing, but also say other prayers and
reflect on the week.
... I have only recently "returned" to
the synagogue and my religion after many years in which I kept my
distance. The first, and most important sign for me, was when I lit my
own shabbat candles for the first time. As a child, I only watched as
others lit them, and this act of lighting them and saying the blessing
was a sign, for me, of my return to the light.
I feel very honored and filled with light.
Regarding lighting Shabbos candles.
This was the first mitzvah (obligation) I ever took on. I was in my early
30's. Why did I light? Simple: It was my way to say Thank You. I was
grateful for my many blessings. It was not enough to simply feel
"lucky". I sensed a greater controlling power. This act allowed me to
connect with the source of my blessings...For me, lighting Shabbos candles
was my gateway to a closeness to Hashem, and I am ever grateful.
Women in Judaism, Copyright (c) 1999 by Mrs. Leah Kohn and ProjectGenesis, Inc.
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Empathy for Others -- A Great Quality in Both the Wicked and the Righteous
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Questions to Ponder
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