This article is reprinted from the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, New York.

It is true that men take a majority of the leadership roles in Hasidic life. But it is women who usher in the Shabbos.

At exactly 8:10 p.m. on a Friday night in late July, Tzirl Goldman lights the nine candles on her Shabbos menorah. She makes a motion with her hands, drawing the heat of the candles to her face. Then her hands are over her face, as she performs the silent prayer. Her mother-in-law Esther joins her, but finishes first.

"My daughter-in-law is much more devout than I am," she quips.

Tzirl's young daughter Musia also covers her face.

"Good Shabbos," she says to herself, a child's whisper at a grown-up ritual.

Then Tzirl kisses and hugs her daughters, wishing them "Good Shabbos" with the same enthusiasm another parent might say "Happy birthday."

The holiday begins.

Shabbos is the Yiddish word for the Hebrew Sabbath that begins Friday night and lasts for 24 hours.

To Orthodox Jews, it is the most important day of the week. Men work only jobs that allow them time to get home before sundown on Friday night. Women often spend all day cooking to prepare for the holiday.

It is a time of joy, a time for spiritual refreshment. Cars are not driven (except when life is at stake), neither lights nor thermostats nor air conditioners are touched, food cannot be cooked (although it can be reheated1), because such acts constitute work, and work cannot be done during this holiday.

All thoughts turn to prayer, learning, family and community togetherness.

The Goldman family spends its summers at Mountain Lodge, an upscale bungalow colony outside Monticello inhabited by Lubavitch Hasidim with enough money to buy their bungalows rather than renting them.

Tzirl and her husband Shmuel, a web-page consultant, are here with 12-year-old Zeesy and 7-year-old Musia. Also present is a niece, Sara, 12, who is visiting from Johannesburg, South Africa, and Shmuel's parents, Simon and Esther. The rest of the children are away at various camps in the Catskills.

As Shabbos begins, Shmuel and Simon don black hats and long black jackets, and tie a thin cord around the jacket. The cord, Shmuel explains, symbolically separates the upper half of the body from the lower half. They're off to shul for Friday night services.

The temple is actually a single unmarked building in the center of the colony, with bare beige walls and folding chairs and long tables covered with plastic tablecloths. A small Ark is at the east end the direction of Jerusalem.

It's a boisterous group, greeting each other with handshakes and "Good Shabbos."

A man davans (praying, often with emphatic movement) at a podium next to the Ark. But he is not the rabbi. There is no rabbi here. Each man is skilled enough to know what prayer to read, when to stand, when to sit. A rabbi is not needed.

About 100 men fill the room, nearly all wearing black hats and waist coats. There are children here as well, some boys davaning as feverishly as the adults. The room echoes with the deep resonant hum of Hebrew prayer.

Back at the house, the girls are also facing east, saying their own prayers. The family sits. Shmuel mixes grape juice with wine for the kiddish. Then the men share a lechiam—a shot of sweet cherry liquor. Then dinner, delicious chicken and sweet potato and homemade gefilte fish. And, of course, plenty of dessert.

Later, Tzirl and her husband walk to a birthday party down the block. We found a dozen men and women sitting separately on a deck, a table loaded with dessert and fruit. Polish vodka is passed around the table, along with beer, although no one seemed to be tipsy. Rather than talk of the Talmud, the conversation flipped from Murphy Brown's baby to Mike Tyson to cellular phones. At 12:30 a.m., the party is still in full swing.

Sometime after 1 a.m., Tzirl and Shmuel head home. The moon is bright and full overhead. They walk down the narrow path, side-by-side but not holding hands, and head into the moonlit shadows of another Shabbos night. 

"In Brooklyn, you could never see the moon like this," Shmuel says. "Too many lights."