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Getting Even with the Shabbat Candles

Getting Even with the Shabbat Candles

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One balmy Friday afternoon just before Candle Lighting Time, my Israeli babysitter knocked on the door. She was to babysit my one year old and four year old as I would accompany my two older children to a family Bar Mitzvah Dinner. I was looking forward all week to getting dressed up and visiting my family living on Bondi Beach, in Sydney, Australia. Being that the synagogue and dinner was down a long hill, I got my flats on and comfortable shoes for the kids. The house was spotless and the smell of Shabbat pervaded the air. I checked that everyone was still tucked in and ready to go. I struck a match and got ready to say the blessing on my Shabbat candles when a thought popped into my head. I raced to get another candlestick ready for Sharon, our babysitter, and quickly set it on the gleaming silver tray.

"Sharon, how would you like to light a Shabbat candle?" I thought she would be more than pleased as she knew all about Shabbat and the holidays. Suddenly, I saw her go red and she exclaimed, “I no longer light the candles since my divorce. I am angry right now and I don’t feel like it." I knew she was going through a hard time but never imagined she would be dealing with it in this way.

Time was running out, but I thought I would give it another go. "Please, Sharon, you will feel better by adding some more light to your world..." Unfortunately, none of the arguments won her over, and I realized I better light my own candles if I wanted to do it before the Shabbat began. The kids crowed around to take part in the beautiful ceremony and my daughter lit her candle first. I lit my candles with a heavy heart that week. It pained me that someone would refuse such a beautiful, feminine, and special deed.

I didn't feel comfortable leaving with an empty wick on a candlestick on my silver tray, but I knew I better get going. I felt heaviness in my heart knowing that a woman would be so angry as to purposely not light the candles. It did not sit well with me. I could not keep it to myself and shared the incident with my husband as we walked down the great big hill. I was saddened that I had not convinced Sharon to light the candles. After a beautiful prayer service and subsequent Shabbat dinner with lots of singing, I felt a little more inspired. But I still could not get Sharon out of my head.

Upon returning home that night, I thought of what I might say to Sharon when I got home. Then it dawned on me. Who am I to judge her? What business do I have to ”force” her to do a Mitzvah? How do I know what she is going through or the hardships she is facing bringing up her daughter by herself?

As I was pondering these thoughts, I was nearing home and eager to get the kids into bed. As I opened the door to my home, I saw an interesting but delightful surprise. Sharon was curled up on my sofa reading a book about the modern Jewish woman, written in Hebrew, based on the teachings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. She was so engrossed in reading that she did not notice me standing there in shock. As soon as she realized that I was home, she immediately got up from the sofa and asked if she could borrow the book.

We exchanged pleasantries about our respective evenings (hers being alone in my home) and she said to me, "I have been thinking. Why am I so angry at the Shabbat candles? What have they ever done to me? I am sorry I got so mad at them before.” I assured her she could make up for it if she lit them happily next week, which, of course, she agreed to do. Then she added, “I couldn't help noticing this book written in Hebrew about the power of a Jewish Woman. I assure you that next week I will light the candles together with my daughter. I never realized the full potential and uniqueness of the modern Jewish woman." I felt great relief that night and wondrously surprised. The power of the soul can come through even in trying times. I have never told Sharon that I myself was waiting for the opportunity to arise when I would be able to read the book myself. It had been sitting on my shelf for nearly five months....

Shternie Althaus, originally from Brooklyn, has been living in Sydney, Australia for the past ten years. She is an educator of high school and seminary students as well as an instructor for Bat Mitzvahs, weddings and conversion. She is married and has five children.
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Anonymous January 16, 2007

Thank you for such a beautiful story. Reply

Shternie Bindi, Australia January 8, 2007

Getting even with the Shabbos Candles Through being mad at the candles, she was expressing her feelings to G-d, as she was purposely not fulfilling her special women's Mitzvah of Candle Lighting. Through Mitzvos, one connects to G-d.The book she was reading was called "El Nshei U'bnos Yisroel-to the women and daughter's of Israel" a collection of writings and lectures from the Lubavitcher Rebbe to Jewish Women regarding their importance in Judaism. As far as I am aware, it is available in Hebrew, but the contents are available in English in other books on this subject. Reply

sarale January 3, 2007

I don't get it; Sharon wasn't mad at the candles, she was mad at G-d. (What book was she reading already, is it available in English?) Reply

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