by Reb Gutman Locks
Let There Be Light
Michael is the cantor in the largest Reform Temple in America. He reads my articles, has read one or two of my books, came for Shabbos while on a visit to Israel, and has taken to heart my insistent message of Jews helping other Jews come to mitzvahs with joy. He gave a successful class in his Temple on putting on tefillin, and because of his kindness at least three of the "Reform" boys are now putting on tefillin every day! What a wonderful thing to have done.
Michael asked for a suggestion for the next series of classes?
Maybe the next topic to teach should be: How to light Shabbos Candles.
When done properly, lighting Shabbos candles should be more than fulfilling a quick mechanical, religious obligation. It should be a time to pause from the entirely physical day to spend a few moments in sweet spiritual awareness.
In most families the mother lights two candles, but in some families the girls begin lighting one Shabbos candle from the age of three, and then when they marry they begin to light two. Besides the two candles that all married women light, some have the custom to light an additional candle for each child in the family.
The class should teach the women not only the proper way to light the candles, i.e. showing them the various candles or olive oil they might prefer to use, what time to light, how long they should burn, … but the main stress of the classes should be how to gain some spiritual awareness at candle lighting time.
When a Jewish woman lights her Shabbos candles it is an etz ratzon, that is, a time of favor. This means that Hashem is, so to speak, listening with both ears. The chupah (marriage canopy) is also a "time of favor" and because of this most brides and grooms like to bring a list of their friends' names with them when they go to the chupah so they will remember to pray for them, too.
Hashem is listening very carefully to the woman's prayers when she lights her candles so she should take her time with sweet words asking Hashem for all of the wonderful things that she wants; her family, her friends, her people, and more….
Lighting candles reveals the holiness of Shabbos in the home. The light from the candles is a physical sign that shows a spiritual change has taken place in her home; the holy Shabbos has begun.
Follow the custom she likes, but most women, after first lighting the candles wave their hands over the candles symbolically drawing the light to their eyes. They then cover their eyes with their hands, say the blessing, and then sweetly pray for their loved ones and for all that they want Hashem to bring to the world.
Before she finishes she should look at the candlelight and see that the candles are two, the wicks are two, the flames are two, but the light is one. Hashem is one and even though we experience all as many, the Infinite One is really all.
The children who are too small to go to shul like to watch Mommy when she lights the candles. It is a very special time.
After this, or as soon as the father comes home, he places his hands on each child's head one at a time and recites the blessing that the Kohenim (priests) say when blessing the congregation. Be sure that the children understand the words he is saying so they learn what a blessing is.
There are so many beautiful customs that can be followed at this time. Then, with the table set so beautifully, the father says Kiddush with an overflowing cup of fine wine and there is great grape juice for the children…then a delicious meal, especially paying attention to the children making sure that they have a fun time... songs, stories, memories…what a lovely, holy experience.
Have a very nice Shabbos.