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My Mother’s Candle for Me

My Mother’s Candle for Me

Paiting by Zalman Kleinman
Paiting by Zalman Kleinman

One Friday evening the conversation at the table turned to the Shabbat candles, whose kindling is in itself a beautiful way of ushering in the sacred day of rest. Lighting a candle is rich in symbolism.

There are acts which we do totally for ourselves, and others which may be completely altruistic. Generating light, however, defies such limitations. I may light the candle for myself, but I cannot contain the light, because of necessity it illuminates the room for others. If I create light for the benefit of another, I too can see better.

What better way to begin the Shabbat, the final step in creation of the universe and its ultimate goal, than by lighting the candles, an act which symbolically binds the inhabitants of the world together. None of us can be an island; what I do affects you, and what you do must have bearing upon me. If we could only realize this, we would well understand why the candle lighting is referred to by our sages as an essential for peace in the household. Dissension can occur only when individuals believe they are separate and distinct and can each go their own particular way, untouched by one another.

Our Shabbat guest asked why there were six candles burning on our table rather than the usual two.

One of the lights Mother kindled each Friday night was for me. I told him it was traditional in many families to begin lighting two candles after marriage, and to add an additional candle for each child. One of the lights Mother kindled each Friday night was for me. I recall how much this had meant to me as a child, when I used to watch the flames flicker and realize that the house, nay, the world, was a brighter place because of my existence.

The full impact of this message did not occur until many years later, when it became evident to me in my psychiatric practice that countless people have emotional problems and varying psychological symptoms because of deep-seated feelings of inadequacy.

There are numerous reasons why people have unwarranted feelings of inferiority, and this is not the place to elaborate on these. Suffice it to say that anything that can be done to counteract these influences contributes to a person's sense of adequacy and wholesomeness, and allows a more satisfactory adjustment to life.

Non-verbal communications are frequently more impressive than verbal. The weekly message to a child, delivered at the initiation of Shabbat, that his being has brought additional brightness into the home can be a powerful ingredient in one's personality development.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, a psychiatrist, rabbi, and founder of the the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pennsylvania, is a renowned author of more than fifty titles on self-help issues.
Painting by Chassidic artist Zalman Kleinman.
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Anonymous Guilford November 21, 2014

Amen V'Amen Rabbi Thank you Rabbi. So very true. What a blessing we Jews have received from Hashem. And what a blessing we are and can be for each other. Everything comes down to us: that our children can know that they bring brightness, joy and light into their homes: that they contribute so much to the foundation of a loving and peaceful world. Amazing. I wish so much that every child in the world could know this. Reply

Michelle uk May 25, 2013

thank you and G-d bless more you for sharing Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma December 23, 2010

the light within I see the small letter "i" in English as a candle and if you think deeply about this, you can see the flame. In fact Aish does picture the i in their website as a flame.

Within each of us there is a flame, and to keep that flame burning, as so beautifully stated in this article, is about "kindling" self-esteem in each other through love, through respect, through that enablement.

Fire itself is maintained by kindling and the best sort of kindling is the "kind" in kindling itself, the very word! Reply

Mary-Lynn Schlifer surrey, canada December 22, 2010

shabbat candles Candle lighting is a very sacred act and one that calms the spirit and brings a sense of serenity into the home.
Friday night, to me, is a way of Hashem
showing us how to hold our selves and our Creator in awe, in wonder.
We have made it to the the end of another busy week with all its challenges, joys and disappointments and now we say our blessings over the glow of candles and we pray n thanks and in hope of more blessings to come and hope that Hashem will continue to grant us Mercy and Grace for the coming week. Reply

Anonymous Mi/USA December 21, 2010

For R. Twerski Bull's eye! Each year my family gets together for Thanksgiving. I had "everyone' over for Friday night/Shabbat dinner. My mother saw my shabbat candles and was puzzled. I had three. "Didn't Xxx start lighting her own now that she is married?" I explained that we never go down in a mitzvah, that once I had started lighting three, I would continue.

And then she told me that her mother had never lit one for her. She had asked Grandma why, and Grandma said something about there only being four candlesticks in the set, which had been bought before my mother was born...Mom knew it was an excuse. Mom said she did feel bad from that. I had already in many ways caught on that Mom had been unwanted and emotionally neglected by her mother so I replied "She wasn't a good mother for you." She didn't reply directly. In my family my words were shockingly strong, and her not stopping me was astounding.

Mom managed to have a sense of self worth. I don't know how, her strength leaves me in awe. Reply

tiferet tzfat, israel December 20, 2010

wow!!! "Ashrei Yoshvei Veitecha" is what i think when i look at harav twersky. May we all realize our light and power we have to reveal it and kindle others' with it. Reply

Welcome to our candle-lighting section, where you will find the details and practicalities of lighting Shabbat candles, along with the meaning, spirituality and power of doing so . . .
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