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Candlesticks Personified

As you circle the flames on the Shabbat candles three times towards your heart every Friday night, we are reminded of your mother and grandmother. We can still see their sweet faces, prominent cheekbones, full lips saying the blessing then covering their kind hazel eyes.         

Our brass bodies were lovingly polished by them every week. You rarely shine us. Years can pass and our skin gets green spots and looks dull but your devotion to Shabbat brings your inner light to us and that’s better than any polish. 

Each week we hear your sigh of release as you enter the hot water in the tub under the trees and enjoy a l’chaim, the shot of vodka that gets you in a festive Shabbos mood before you light candles. The candles you place in us burn for exactly three hours. As their glow infuses the room and transforms it to sacred space, we watch you savor your dinner and wine. When our candles are almost burned down, their flames flickering blue, we hear you cry out with pleasure. The mitzvah of lovemaking on Shabbat is the best thing about being Jewish, along with the commandment to light candles. 

The most moving moment of our lives was when we sat atop the shelf of medical books in the tiny doctor’s resting room at San Francisco General hospital, one wall painted blue, and watched you labor, heard your screams and then, your daughter’s first cry. When we see three-year-old Luna Pearl cover her eyes and say the blessing along with you and her Mommy, she is feeling the magic of countless generations of women lighting candles to welcome the Sabbath Bride. Your Bahbe was a bride when her mother gave us to her as a wedding present. When she came from Romania to America on that stomach-churning voyage all she brought with her were us and her children. Bahbe carved tiny horizontal notches, only a quarter of an inch each, into one of our heavy, graceful, brass bodies with her carving knife. One for each of her babies—ten notches—only six survived. When you no longer survive and your daughter and granddaughter light candles in us, they will feel your spirit in their glow. Like you, we exist to spark spirituality and be the center of attention.

Kohenet Miki Raver serves on the clergy team at Burbank Temple Emanu-El and is Director of Camp Isabella Freedman. She is author of Listen to Her Voice: Women of the Hebrew Bible  and She is Wisdom: A Celebration of the Feminine Divine. She lives in Los Angeles in a multi-generational household.