Friday, August 3, 2012

There's No Place Like {This Bit of} Home: Robin's Candlesticks

While our family is moving into our new house this week (eek!), I'll be sharing some guest posts! But not just any guest posts -- this week, we'll get to nose around in other people's spaces. Haven't you always wanted to see exactly where your favorite bloggers live? In-depth snooping around where they cook or clean or play or work? I hope I'm not the only nosy one! 

Today, my dear friend Robin from Not Ever Still is giving us a beautiful glimpse into her family's special corner and the ritual that unfolds there.   

Every Friday evening we gather in a corner of the dining room -- not around the table, although that might happen after, but in the back, an interior space, left of the window. We're behind the oven, really, if walls are just a construct, the traditional hearth; not seen from the street, not for fanfare or aggrandizing; this is a space of quietude, a burrowing space to gather close. Here I hear my family's heartbeat.

These are my candlesticks, and every Friday evening my family gathers before them to create a spark, to sever the secular so we may welcome the sacred, to usher in the Sabbath.

My grandmother gave me these candlesticks, and they were her mother's before her, and she had received them as a wedding gift from her new mother-in-law. These candlesticks are shtetl-born, pogrom-fleeing, trans-Atlantic survivors, weary, bent, and badly in need of polishing, but I do so rarely because after more than a hundred years of use the metal is literally wearing away. And when my daughters help me perform one of the most hallowed rituals of a Jewish woman and kindle those weekly flames, they are the sixth generation to lay hands upon this tarnished silver in devotion, and all the shiny upright candlesticks in the world will never entice me in comparison.

Traditionally, a woman lights the candles, circles her arms around them three times, ushering the light toward her faces, and closes her eyes. She says the blessing praising and thanking God for the gift of the Sabbath and when she opens her eyes again, in that moment: it's there. Sabbath has begun. When I was a child, opening my eyes to the pupils of two flames dancing before me, I thought that holy moment brought me face-to-face with the eyes of God. Between the blue of the bottom flame and the orange of the upper flame, God looks in on us, hears our prayers, and nods a benediction at us that all will be well. So I always thought. But as an adult I'm not sure I was wrong.

With my daughters, I've added a meditation to our practice. With each circle around the flames we concentrate: first on those hurts and sorrows of the week-just-ended that we're ready to let go. Second: the joys of the past week that we wish to nestle in our hearts. And third: the blessings we wish for the coming week. In all three circles, we include friends, family, strangers we've seen on the street. Societal ills, scientific breakthroughs, the beauty of a ladybug crawling through dew. They're private thoughts, and none of us say them aloud (although afterward, my daughters often do).

It's just a moment, a ritual less than a minute long, but in our modern society where the arrival of Sabbath coincides exactly with the end of the work (and soon enough again, school) week, that moment that brings us to a halt bestills my heart, too. And so it is that no matter how whirlwind our lives are, we stop again, week after week, for a holy moment in the corner of the dining room.


  1. Happy birthday, Sarah. May your family enjoy the glow of these candles, too.

    1. Thank you! Robin has spelled out some wonderful meditations that seem much more far-reaching than one, single Sabbath, though that would be enough. I feel like my whole year to come will be lit with candlelight!

  2. My parents lived in Israel for several years and growing up on Friday nights we always gathered as a family and welcomed the Sabbath. We light the candles and said the prayer. It was so special and meaningful. Something I would love to do when I have children.

  3. This is beautiful. I want to think about this for a long time and what I can do for my family that borrows from this beauty.

  4. How beautiful. I need to sit with this. It calls me, I want to have this with my girls.


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?