Monday, May 23, 2011

The Mysterious Peace of Shabbat Candles

Today's post is from guest-blogger Rebecca O'Connell, who also blogs at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Story Pockets.  Rebecca is the author of two Penina Levine books, as well as Four Sides, Eight Nights.

Two years ago, I’d gone crying to my friend Leah for help. There was trouble in my extended family, and it was affecting my immediate family. Leah listened as I sobbed out the whole tortured story.
She suggested I light Shabbat candles.
Well, I thought, it couldn’t hurt.
The following Friday, we lit the candles. They weren’t special Shabbat candles, just some candle-ends I had lying around. I didn’t see the need to invest in a box of special candles.  I wasn’t sure we’d be doing this week after week.

As much as I respected Leah, I was still pretty skeptical about this whole idea.  How could lighting Shabbat candles affect my family problems? My extended family didn’t even know we were lighting them.  If they did know, they’d probably make fun of me for turning into a religious fanatic. I was making fun of myself for turning into a religious fanatic, and worried my husband and son would think I was turning into one too.
It turns my husband and son didn’t mind my candle-lighting as much as they minded my sniffling, moaning, obsessive recounting of my extended-family-woes. If lighting the Shabbat candles could  keep me from tracking misery all over the house, then they were all for it. And besides, they had spiritual lives too. Lighting the candles on Friday night could offer all of us a chance to pause, to reflect, to feel grateful, maybe to pray.
It worked. It seemed to work. I’m still mystified as to how or why, but lighting the Shabbat candles has been important to us.  In the past two years, I’ve taken up knitting and given it up.  I’ve begun an exercise regimen and forgotten all about it. But the candle-lighting has endured. And I think it will. I hope so.


  1. So did lighting the candles have a significant impact?

  2. Excellent post. Although I'm not traditionally religious, I look forward to candle-lighting every week. It's not something I grew up with, but not a foreign concept as I grew up in an Orthodox community. I too was worried what my husband and son would say when I started this practice a year ago. Interestingly, my father, who grew up religious, viewed this practice as "fanatacism". My husband loves it - he knows it's the one day he can guarantee I will make it home from work early. My son wants to say the blessings and light the candles too (why should it be just for women; hopefully he will do this in his own home someday).

    Every week I wonder how I will manage to shake the lingering thoughts and millions of emails of the workweek out of my mind, so as to properly welcome Shabbat, and then I light and stare at my beautiful candles, feeling complete peace. Hard to explain but there is the saying: "A little light dispels much darkness." That plus 25 hours of rest, family, and spiritual regeneration are an oasis and joy I look forward to every week. I highly recommend it!