I love these candles.
These candles that are almost all burnt, off to the side of me on the kitchen table, on this first Friday night since we moved the clocks forward. It’s 7:47 and almost dark, three stars in the sky, if ya know what I mean. And the Sabbath lights are lit in my kitchen window.
I lit ‘em, yep, I did.
And I said a little prayer. And then it was Shabbat. The Sabbath. Or Shabbos if you prefer. As in Good Shabbos.
The two candles are sitting in ceramic holders I bought in Jerusalem during my junior year of college at Hebrew University over thirty years ago. (Geez, that’s crazy. OVER thirty years.) Candlestick holders were a relatively easy relic for a naïve American 19-year-old girl with limited Hebrew skills to purchase from vendors in the Old City. The stuff was called Jerusalem pottery or something (and now, ladies and gents, we know it’s been over 30 years… the memory stick in my brain is officially full. Note to self, time to delete some items).
I’ve had these candlesticks with me ever since. On one Friday night or another, in every home I’ve lived in – and yes, there have been more than I care to recall — I’ve brought them out and lit them and brought in the light with my hands and covered my eyes and reminded myself to be thankful for every gift in my life. I have so many gifts, I’m overflowing, and so, so grateful.
On Friday nights when I light the candles in these Jerusalem pottery candlestick holders I bought over thirty years ago, I find my center. I sometimes wish I could find my center more frequently than once a week, but when I really think about it, I’m glad that I at least do that – there were plenty of times in my life when I had a much harder time finding peace for much longer stretches of time, so a week is good.
I look forward to Friday nights for other reason besides the candles. It’s a night for family, and my s.o. (I’m bringing the term back, don’tcha know) and I usually stay in and sing the prayers together, sometime on FaceTime with one or more of my relatives, sometimes just the two of us. Sometimes we go to a movie, sometimes we watch Netflix, sometimes we play cards… whatever we do, it’s special time.
We usually eat challah on Friday nights too, and have French toast on Saturday mornings, which is another favorite part of Shabbat for me. OMG, challah French toast. I never feel wealthier than when I’m eating it with good ol’ Canadian maple syrup and a strong cup of Salt Spring Coffee.
But mostly I look forward to Friday nights because it’s a perfect time to find my centre. When I find my center (ah, deep breath, we’re back to it), wonderful things happen. Before that can happen, though, one thing needs to happen. I need to stop. Stop moving. Stop talking. Stop the chatter in my head. Just stop. Enough, already.
Stopping – which is to say, relaxing – is not an easy thing for me to do. (I think, with all love and respect for my tribespeople, this may be partially a Jewish thing.) I get wound up a fair bit, sometimes for a reasonable reason, sometimes not. Sometimes I get wound up when people I care about are going through hard stuff. No matter how it starts, once I’m wound up, you know, I’m usually pretty busy worrying about something or someone, because worrying is a key part of being wound up, and when I’m worrying, stopping worrying is just about the last thing from my mind, because if I stopped, just stopped, I mean, how could I worry? There’s just so damn much to worry about all the time!!!
(I’m sorry, that was exhausting for all of us.)
The candles remind me to stop. And when I stop, I remember not to worry. And then, I remember that there isn’t even anything I need to worry about! So I stop worrying.
And I relax.
And when I relax, that’s when I find my centre. Tickety boom. (Who says that? Not me.) (Tickety boom. Oooh, that’s fun.)
To complete the circle, I love these candles, because they help me relax. And relaxing makes life SO GOOD.
The prayer we sing on Friday nights when we light the candles essentially says (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Thanks for commanding us to light the candles to remember that now it is time to rest.” Personally, I prefer the word “reminding” to “commanding,” but I’m not going to worry about it. Because it’s Friday night and Stevie Wonder was right… I really don’t have to worry about anything.