From the October Monthly: Shabbat Candles

On Rosh Hashanah morning, I offered my vision for what a Reform Shabbat might look like.  And now that it’s acherei he-chagim  – “after the holidays” – I hope that many of you will join me in exploring more deeply how a Reform Shabbat practice might enrich our lives.  If you weren’t at services on Rosh Hashanah morning, I hope you’ll read my sermon when you have a chance.

One of the ideas I presented were three goals for a Reform Shabbat, with each part inspired by one of the symbols at Shabbat dinner:IlluminateSavorSweeten

  1. Illuminate what really matters (Shabbat candles)
  2. Stop and Savor (Wine)
  3. Sweeten the everyday (challah)

Over the course of the year, I hope to explore each of these Shabbat goals in more depth.
For the next six weeks, we’ll begin with the first goal, using Shabbat to illuminate what really matters in our lives – to rebalance our priorities, to focus our time and energy on what is lasting, rather than on the many urgent tasks that demand our attention, but don’t reflect our deepest priorities.

Ritually, I hope to explore how lighting Shabbat candles might help focus us on this goal.  Here’s the first experiment we’ll be trying out.  Over the next six weeks, you’ll notice a change when you come into the building on Shabbat: there will be a big table where you can light your own Shabbat candles when you enter the lobby.  While we will still light Shabbat candles on the bima, I want more people to have the opportunity to participate actively in this fundamental Jewish ritual that has been passed down through so many generations – even if you can’t light candles at home because you are running out the door to services.  So when you come in on Friday nights over the next six weeks, there will be a table with plenty of Shabbat candles by the entrance, instructions, the words of the blessing in Hebrew and English, and a special kavana, or spiritual focus, related to the goal of illuminating and focusing on what matters most in our lives.  I’ll be eager to hear your feedback about this experience after the six weeks are complete.

If you’re new to the ritual of lighting Shabbat candles, or you don’t regularly make it part of your life, I hope you’ll consider joining us on this experiment.  If you can’t stay for services, but just want to come light candles in the lobby, you are welcome to do that as well. If you’d prefer to light candles at home, as Jews have for centuries, we’ll make sure to have extra candles on hand in the office during the week – feel free to come pick up a pair for free.  You can light Shabbat candles with anything as simple as a set of little tea lights.  Of course, the tradition of hiddur mitzvah, beautifying the mitzvah, has inspired generations of Jews to light their Shabbat candles in beautiful candlesticks.  If you need a pair of those, our gift shop, Gifted, always has plenty of gorgeous ones on hand!  Call our office to find a time when the gift shop will be open.

Thank you for joining me in the first step of this experiment.  And Shabbat Shalom!


One thought on “From the October Monthly: Shabbat Candles

  1. Myra Wolpert

    Nice! I’ll look forward to lighting candles at Beth David. Tonight, I lit them at my dinner table with a dear friend who moved into the Green Hill today..


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