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Shabbat, me or you?

Wednesday, 19 March, 2014 - 11:13 am

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Have you ever wondered about Shabbat candle lighting? Particularly in the winter?

A woman once wanted to begin incorporating Shabbat into her life; she began with the quick and easy component of lighting Shabbat candles figuring that it didn’t require much investment of time, but still felt meaningful as it is a mitzvah specifically for women.

The problem arose as winter’s short Fridays hit and candle lighting time (18 mins before sundown) found her still in the office. At first she stuck with it and as the time approached she would pull out her tea-light candles, light them and recite the blessing, she got some strange looks but she smiled confidently in return and no one seemed to mind.

Later in the evening as she would return home and sit down to dinner she began to feel that it wasn’t quite right to be lighting candles while continuing to work, followed by driving home. She decided that lighting candles once she returned home, even if it was technically later than should be, in the calm of her dining room would be a better option so she could relax and really enjoy the glow of the candles, it felt much more spiritual and really that’s what Shabbat candles were all about, right? Or is it?

The story of the death of Aron’s two sons, as related in this week’s Torah portion, sheds some light on this quandary.

We are told that they died because they sinned, but the medrash tells us that they were holier than Moses and Aron. If they were in fact such holy men, how could they sin so terribly that resulted in their deaths?

The problem with Nadav and Avihu (the sons) was that they served G-d so fervently that they got lost in the ecstasy of it, they worked so hard to get closer to G-d that they forgot about what their purpose in this world really was. Their souls reached higher and higher until they actually left their bodies, and they died.

They were lofty men but in this area they were off course. They were reprimanded for not marrying and not having children because living a physical life and making that physical life more spiritual, is really the purpose of our creation.

If we look at our relationship with G-d from the vantage point of what makes us feel good, what makes us feel more spiritual or more connected, then perhaps we are really just serving ourselves. But if we do what G-d wants us to do and we want to truly serve G-d, then we need to follow his commands as He commanded them.

If the woman above asked me which scenario is best for lighting her Shabbat candles, I would obviously tell her to leave work early and be home in time for Shabbos:), but in fact lighting candles once Shabbat has begun is counterproductive as they are no longer Shabbat candles but actually desecrate Shabbat. Because it’s not about what makes us feel good, but about what G-d wants us to do.

Have a wonderful week,

~Nechama~

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We had a very happy Purim, hope you did too!

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