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You Complete The Circle

You Complete The Circle

The Power of Lighting Shabbat Candles

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Two rabbinical students were sent under the direction of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, to the faraway Aleutian Islands, with the sole purpose of bringing the joy and light of Judaism to any Jews that lived there.

After a week of searching, they found not one Jew. Despondent, they made one last attempt at the local elementary school. They went to each classroom and asked if there were any Jewish children in the class, and each teacher told them that there were no Jewish children. They entered the very last classroom, and asked the teacher if there were any Jewish children there. She immediately answered no.

A girl in the back raised her hand. "Mommy, so we're not the only Jews in the world?!" little Stacy exclaimed to her mother/teacher.

The embarrassed mother quietly and quickly told the rabbinical students that she'd talk to them after class.

The now-revealed mother and daughter sat with the two rabbinical students that afternoon. The mother confessed that she was not very comfortable with her Judaism, or expressing it with her daughter, as they were the only Jews on this island, and it seemed easier to just put it aside. They all talked for a while, the boys offering words of warm encouragement to explore their Jewish identity. The mother bought some Jewish books and Mezuzahs. She then asked the boys to offer some words of encouragement to her daughter, as they had to her.

We're not the only Jews in the world?The rabbinical students left the little girl with this thought: "All around the world, women and girls bring in Shabbat by lighting candles on Friday afternoon, eighteen minutes before sunset. But when they are lighting eighteen minutes before sunset, bringing in Shabbat in Australia, it is not yet Shabbat in Israel, until eight hours later, when the women there light the candles. And then seven hours later, New York lights and brings in Shabbat, and eventually California, and the entire world lights, and brings in Shabbat at different times."

"The very last time zone is at the furthest point on earth, which is the Aleutian Islands. And the Aleutian Islands is the very last place in the world every Friday to have the opportunity to light Shabbat candles! You and your mother have this opportunity-to usher in the light of Shabbat for the entire Aleutian Islands."

"You will also be the very last Jewish girl in the world each Friday, little Stacy, to usher in Shabbat with your Shabbat candles, completing this unifying circle."

And with these words, the boys bid farewell to their new Jewish friends on the island.


This story got me thinking-at first almost wistfully: Wow, talk about people making a difference! This mother and her daughter, two lone Jews, on this lone island, have a powerful opportunity-to be the last two Jewish women in the entire world to light the Shabbat candles, completing the circle!

But in truth, we all have the opportunity to complete the circle.

We are each, independently, an entire world Like a child who might occasionally ask her father if he loves her as much as her sister, we might wonder at times how much G‑d loves and values us, as individuals, amongst millions of others. And what is the reply a loving father gives his child? He does not assure her of equality, but rather replies, "My love for you is different than my love for your sister. She is my only she in the whole wide world, and you are my only you in the whole wide world- there is no one with your uniqueness."

We are one big, beautiful world of millions of Jewish women, united in our sameness- bringing light to the world with our candle-lighting, always on Friday evenings, always with a blessing.

And yet, we are each, independently, an entire world-comprised of our unique emotions, talents, and ways of thinking; serving G‑d with our unique flavors; connecting, doing, feeling and experiencing with our own unique ways.

Some light white candles, others light colored candles.

Some meditate during the blessing, some meditate in the precious moments that follow.

Some talk from a place of gratitude, others from sorrow.

Some with their minds, some with their hearts- and some with both.

G‑d is yearning for you, the precious world that is you, dear reader, to invite Him into your home. To talk to Him about your gratitude, perhaps your confusion, even disappointment in Him.

This Friday afternoon as the sun sets, He is yearning and waiting for little Stacy, for me...for you, to light the Shabbat candles on Friday night, completing the unique weekly time cycle of you, your world, in your unique way.

The circle is not complete without you.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shula Bryski, co-director of Chabad of Thousand Oaks, teaches three ongoing adult education classes and enjoys exploring the deeper dimensions of life with her students. An accomplished pianist, her favorite pastimes include playing classical music and laughing with her six children. She has an editing and speech-writing business at rentaspeech.com.
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Miriam Haber Hispin, Israel September 30, 2012

Memories This beautiful story brought back my vivid memory of the feeling of being the last woman in the world to usher in Shabbos when we lived in Anchorage Alaska. It is truly an inspiring story.
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Rachael Wilmette, il September 28, 2012

Shabbat has meaning beyond just us My husband supports my spiritual endeavors, even though he is not a fan of religion. Every Friday I light the candles. This is important for me to have that spiritual connection to something greater than myself, to thousands of years of women who have come before me. My son is following in his father's footsteps, but it gratifies me to hear him ask, "Why do WE light the candles on Friday?" I am always alone in the kitchen when I do this, yet he feels a part of it - "WE". He sees the me in the kitchen and then the candles in the window. It is his heritage. And I hope that by being exposed to this and other acts like hosting Passover seder, lighitng Hanukkah candles, going to Chabad for Simchas Torah, that he will always feel a Jewish Identity and want to seek out more information when he is older. And, selfishly, maybe find a nice Jewish girl.....Thank you for your post. Good shabbos! Reply

Anonymous Glasgow April 28, 2012

Thank you! Wonderful piece! It brought tears to my eyes, as did some of the comments. Thanks for sharing your stories everyone! Reply

Anonymous August 9, 2011

Beautiful I can't wait to share the ideas and story with my Bat Mitzvah student tom! Reply

Rishe bklyn, us April 28, 2010

responding to "Connecting with candles" Dear Anonymous,
I too live in Brooklyn. Why should you feel so alone, because your family is not "there" yet as far as religion is concerned? Call me or email me, I will visit you or you are invited to visit me. Because your post made me cry too!!
Please email me at nsheiboard@gmail.com...
Your Friend (also a woman living in Brooklyn - I am Shula Bryski's mom) Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY April 27, 2010

Connecting with candles I never had grandparents. My father's first children were murdered in the holocaust. I struggled to find someone to marry, then struggled to build a family, eventually adopting my beautiful children. They have no aunts or uncles or first cousins. When I light candles, I feel connection to my late mother, her mother, and all who came before me. My husband and sons fall between indifferent and anti religion. I hope that somehow there will be someone to light candles to connect with me. This article left me crying. Reply

Carol November 8, 2009

Being a part of this mitzvah... I feel uplifted to know I was born to reveal this secret. I am one with all who light the Shabbat Candles. Reply

Anonymous Montreal, Quebec, Canada November 6, 2009

Completed Circle I was deeply touched by your article. I was orphaned at 6 months of age and never knew or was able to experience my Jewish roots. Your writing helps me to hold onto the deepeest parts of my soul - my faith in G-d. Thank you. Shalom. Reply

Anonymous St Petersburg, Fl May 23, 2009

Shabbat Candles Thank you for the encouragement. My great grandmother did not know why she lit her oil lamp every Friday evening. I asked why? and she did not know why.She was an uneducated African American who lived to the ripe old age of 96.Her mother was not born a slave but her mother was born a slave.Amazing?but not in light of the many centuries of living in fear to be found out,and not receiving explainations. My brother also recalls this habit. Now after many years of searching in my lifetime I have found them hiding in me.I now have the duty and the task to inform my daughters and grand children.Once again thank you for the enouragement and the inclusiveness I feel.There are roadblocks that still exist but it is worth it. Reply

RLG Australia May 2, 2009

So beautifully written LIghting Shabbat candles can so easily become routine in our hectic lives. Thank you for the reminder of what a wonderful mitzvah it is. The point of us all being connected, all around the world is very special. Reply

rebecca stevens nixa, mo April 30, 2009

thank you your story brought tears to my eyes and touched my heart in a way words cannot express. thank you Reply

Anonymous Oakham, MA April 28, 2009

Candles that was beautiful. thank you for writing it. I whine b/c there is no temple in my town and I'm not in a position to move and don't really want to move. You help me look at it differently and I don't feel so isolated. Reply

Anonymous April 28, 2009

Thank You! I never thought of benchin licht (lighting Shabbat Candles) as such a personal experience! Thank you very much! :) 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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