It was a sunny February Friday morning in Monsey, New York, and a friend invited me to attend an estate sale. I’d never been to an estate sale, and I wasn’t even sure exactly what it was, but for some reason I decided to go along.

“Here’s to new experiences,” I thought, and hopped into his car.

We arrived at the advertised address—a small attached home. We parked in front and went inside.

The house was small and cozy. People were milling about picking up knickknacks and asking for prices. “A dollar-fifty for this, four dollars for that,” said a good-natured middle-aged man.

Turns out the owner is an elderly woman, and her children were handling the logistics of the sale, haggling and making small talk with the slow-moving crowed filing through the house.

As I walked deeper inside, I spotted the dining room piled high with items for sale. In the middle were a ceramic matzah dish and two brass candlesticks. I didn’t pay much attention to them at the time. Not really interested, I thought.

Those candlesticks had a plan. I wasn’t going to let them down this time.

As I perused, I began to feel some sadness; all these items comprised 50–60 years of memories. Now those memories were laid out for all to see and buy. But the family seemed cheerful enough, which helped me feel better about the whole thing.

Eventually we each found something to buy, if just to make the owners happy. On the way out, the older woman, the owner of the house, wished us “Good Shabbos.” We wished her the same, and left.

Driving away, the image of the candlesticks for sale on that dining room table stayed in my mind. Why am I still thinking about them? I wondered. Soon I felt more clarity: I had completely missed an opportunity!

The candlesticks displayed on the table.
The candlesticks displayed on the table.

It was close to noon, time to pick up the kids from school. As I drove, the candlesticks spoke louder. Those candlesticks had a plan. I wasn’t going to let them down this time.

I stopped at the bakery and picked up a fresh challah. I picked up the children, and told them about our mission. I stopped off at home to pick up two candles and the accompanying glass holders that sit atop candlesticks, and a Shabbat Table Companion book.

We headed back to the estate sale, hoping the candlesticks hadn’t been bought in the meantime.

The plan was now in full motion. I was excited, as were the kids. We parked in the same spot, piled out of the van and filed inside.

Whew! The candlesticks were still there!

I searched for the older woman, and asked her if the candlesticks were for sale.

“Yes,” she replied, asking her son to give us a price.

“Eight dollars for the pair,” he said.

“Deal,” I said while pulling out my wallet and giving him the money.

I began to feel some sadness; all these items comprised 50–60 years of memories.

The mother went to the table, took the candlesticks and put them in my hands.


I held them, my kids watching my every move. I then looked her softly in the eye and spoke.

“Do you know why I came all the way back and bought these candlesticks?”


“I came back together with my children to buy them from you, so we can give them back to you. We want these candlesticks to stay in your dining room, continuing to illuminate your home every Friday and holiday night.”

Tears welled up in her eyes.

Mine soon followed.

Our daughter Hindy gave her the bag with the candles and glass holders.

Moishy gave her the challah.

Chana gave her the Shabbat Table Companion.

Tziporah with her "new" candlesticks.
Tziporah with her "new" candlesticks.

The woman’s son came over to see what was happening, the daughter following close behind.

Their mother told them what we’d done.

There were hugs and tears between them. Even the strangers rummaging through the estate items stopped to stare, as if overcome by the outpouring of G‑dly light radiating from the Jewish souls of this beautiful family.

The mother finally spoke, and told us her Hebrew name is Tziporah, and she went to Hebrew school as a child, but not much followed.

She warmly accepted our gift, and assured us that she “already knows the berachos (blessings).”

“We want these candlesticks to stay in your dining room.”

On our way out, her son said to me, “Just as you offered Mom a gift, we want to give you a gift—here, please take the eight dollars back. What you’ve given us today is worth so much more than a few dollars.”

I politely declined, and asked instead that they share with my family the merit of the mitzvah of lighting Shabbat and holiday candles.

“Agreed!” he said. The mom and daughter also nodded their heads.

We left as we came, but now we traveled on spiritual clouds. We felt part of something bigger, something raw and deep, profoundly connecting our Jewish souls. It was this feeling that kept us warm on that winter day as we prepared for Shabbat.

But most of all, I feel fortunate that our children got to experience our unique “transaction.” I hope the experience has taught them to look for opportunity even when it isn’t apparent at first glance.

This true story happened in 2012.