I was lucky enough to have known three of my bubbies. Even luckier to see them all light Shabbat candles, or as we used to say, bentch licht.

My great-grandmother Bubbie Malka stayed over at the home of my parents the night before my brother’s bar mitzvah. That way she could walk to synagogue.

After my mother lit her two candles, she handed the matches to her grandmother, Bubbie Malka. White scarf covering her gray-red hair, her large hands shook as she lit a match to light the five candles which stood tall and upright in the silver candleholder. She circled her hands over the lit candles before putting her hands over her eyes to pray.

Tall and upright as her candles, she sat in a brown striped living-room chair after the family had Shabbat dinner; I sat on the stool beside her and listened as she told me the story of her life.

She spoke in broken English, then lapsed into Yiddish, which I did not entirely understand.

I sat on the stool beside her and listened as she told me the story of her lifeShe told how my grandmother Bubbie Annie, her oldest, had left Russia for America to work, then send money back for the rest of the family to move here. This I already knew.

The fact that Bubbie Malka had delivered into this world many more than five children, I had not known. I listened intently to a language I didn’t entirely understand.

My father, who spoke Yiddish as his first language, choked on the nut he was eating as he listened in the background.

I didn’t mind that I didn’t understand everything she said. I did understand that my Bubbie Malka was a great lady. I hoped to be like her someday.

I had seen Bubbie Annie light candles many times, when I slept over at her house on Shabbat. She lit five candles standing in her silver candlestick holder, then two more for her short candlesticks below. Wearing a white scarf or flowered kerchief, she would circle her small hands over the candles, then cover her eyes and pray.

My father’s mother had a full head of gray hair, and lit the candles in her kitchen.

This past year, when my family was together to celebrate my oldest grandson’s bar mitzvah, I watched my daughter Malka circle her small hands over the Shabbat candles, then cover her eyes and pray. My large hands followed over my candles, then my daughter-in-law with small hands, as one of her ancestors, over her candles, followed me.

As my four grandsons watched wide-eyed, I could feel all the bubbies and zaidies in the room.

My husband, who had never met his grandparents and who wanted to grow up to be a zaidie, had tears in his eyes.

I thanked G‑d for the mitzvah of lighting Shabbat candles, and to live to see this mitzvah being passed down through the generations.