Thursday, June 4, 2009

Three kiruv stories about lighting Shabbos candles

Story 1 - The Kiruv Kibbutz.

Simone (not her real name) was 18 from England. She grew up in a typical English secular Jewish family. Her grandmother grew up in England but she knew that her great grandmother came from Poland and had been religious. Simone had gone to “Cheder” at the local Orthodox synagogue, some five miles away but left when she was Bat Mitzvah at 12. Friday night (mamash night) her mother would light candles. Her father would say Kiddush over Palwin No.10 (sweet red wine) and they would sit down to a Friday night family meal consisting of eggs and onions / chopped liver followed by chicken soup and then chicken and potatoes.

Her parents insisted that they not go out until after the meal. Similarly, the TV remained off until after the meal. Simone considered this whole thing a farce. After all they weren’t religious and it was all a bit hypocritical. Before grandma had died she had called the family to her bedside to give them some final words and gifts. Everyone had been given something of value except Simone. Grandma gave Simone her brass candlesticks that had sat on the side board of grandma’s living room for as long as Simone could remember. These things probably belonged to her grandma’s grandma and they looked it too. Old, dirty, discoloured and battered. She couldn’t even remember her grandma using these things. They were probably last used by her grandma’s mother! What was she going to do with them? They weren’t even heavy enough to use as bookends! It appeared that Yiddishkite had not touched Simone’s heart in any way.

Simone was a member of Young Judea, A leftwing leaning secular Zionist youth organisation. She decided that after her A-levels (similer to bagrut) she was going to take a year off and join a group from her youth movement going to Israel. This Shnat Sherut scheme consisted of learning secular Jewish studies in Jerusalem and living on a kibbutz up in the Northern Galil. When her group arrived at the kibbutz her first impressions were one of confusion.

It was her first time in Israel. Even though she was secular she expected Israelis to be at least as Jewish as her. However one of the first things she noticed was that there were no mezuzot on any of the doors. She worked in the chicken huts. It was dirty work but fun. All the meals were served in the Cheder Ochel which meant plenty of time to socialise with the locals. Simone mentioned the lack of anything Jewish to her madricha. Their madricha (a kibbutznik assigned to her group) told them that in actual fact, every Friday night the kibbutz had a festive meal. Well that was something at least.

Her group took showers and got dressed for a typical English Friday night meal. When they entered the cheder ochel they were aware that they were being stared at. The kibbutznikim were still in their jeans and T-shirts. Simone felt as if she was being looked at as if she’d just got off the bus from Meah Shaarim! She felt embarrassed but at the same time felt this overwhelming feeling of Jewishness come over her. She instinctively looked around for the Shabbos candles. There were none. Not really understanding what she was doing herself, she went into the kitchen and found two candles. She melted the bottoms onto a metal ashtray and placed them on the table assigned to her group. She lit the candles and covered her eyes whilst the whole kibbutz looked on in astonishment. (In actual fact it was way past the end of halachik lighting time but we can leave that to the side for the moment).

Everyone went silent and Simone’s bracha echoed around the hall. Michael, a cute boy in her group smiled at her. He left the table and came back with a carton of "Prigat" grape juice. He covered his head with a paper napkin, poured out some juice into a drinking glass and recited the only part of Kiddush that he knew off by heart, that being the bracha over wine. Simone had never felt so Jewish before, sitting here in this secular kibbutz. A few weeks went by and her madricha told her that she would have to work in the chicken huts over Shabbat. She was shocked and angry. She refused outright. In England she would not have cared but all of a sudden, here is Israel, on this secular kibbutz, Shabbos was important to her. She had no idea why.

She left the kibbutz just before she was thrown out and found herself at the Kotel searching for answers. An American woman approached her. Her name was Sarah and she wondered if she was looking for a place to stay, where she could experience a Jewish environment in the Old city. Sarah directed Simone to a girl’s kiruv seminary.

Six months later, “Shoshana” came back to England. Before she had even put her bags in her room Shoshana placed her grandma’s candlesticks next to her mother’s on the mantelpiece. Simone’s mother looked on in amazement. Her daughter had become a “Frumie”. She couldn’t believe it! Shoshana looked at her grandma’s candlesticks and noticed something quite incredible. There was still wax melted into the top. Wax from a candle lit by her great grandmother perhaps? Friday afternoon, she took her candle and melted the bottom into her great grandmother’s wax. She prepared to light her grandmother’s candlesticks for the first time. She whispered, “grandma grandma, I’ve joined your mother’s wax to mine”.

She lit those candles whilst her family looked on in astonishment, silence and awe.

Story 2 – Lighting candles for Aba and Ima.

(Based on a story I believe I read in Yated Neeman about 14 years ago)
The story begins with two young secular Israelis, living in a religiously mixed neigbourhood in Yerushalayim, sending their little girl to the nearest gan around the corner to them. It just happens to be a Torani (religious) gan.

Shula was 5 years old and loved her gan. Her ganenet told the group stories about Shabbat. They roll played lighting candles and having a Shabbat seudah. She looked forward to her turn when she could be "Ima shel Shabbat" and play lighting Shabbos candles. Back home, Shula nagged her mother to light Shabbat candles but her mother refused outright. “We are not religious” she explained to her daughter. "We don't do these things"!

Weeks went by and Shula continued to nag her mother until eventually her mother had had enough and screamed at her daughter to never mention this again. Enough already! They were not religious and she did not “do” Shabbat candles. Shula was not put off. She had an idea. "If my mother won’t light then I’ll light for her!"

Friday afternoon Shula emptied out her moneybox and walked to the "makolet" (the local store) around the corner. “Two candles” she asked the "Ba'al mekolet". It was 1995 and Rabin had just been assassinated. The secular kids had started lighting yurtzite candles in the streets. It was the “in thing” at the time. The Ba’al Mekolet assumed that this was what Shula wanted the candles for so he gave her two little yurtzite candles that came in a metal can with the word “Zachor” (in memory) written on the side.

Shula brought these home. She arranged her doll’s table with a white tablecloth and set it for a Shabbat seuda with her play cutlery. She placed a Kiddush cup on the table and then her candles. Copying what the ganenet had showed the group, Shula lit the yurtzite candles just as her mother was entering her bedroom.

Shula said out loud what she had learnt in gan. “This candle is for my mother and this candle is for my father”.

Her mother looked on in total shock. Her daughter was lighting yurtzite candles for her parents as if to say that they were dead! Was their daughter so upset with them? She asked Shula why she was doing this and received the reply “because you won’t light Shabbat candles yourself, I’m lighting these candles for you!”

Shula and her mother went to the living room. Her mother removed some candlesticks from the cupboard and placed them on the table. Shula looked on as her mother whilst she lit those Shabbat candles for the first time in her life.

As the months went by, Shula’s parents started keeping more and more things. Shula’s father started asking questions at the local shul around the corner and very soon, Shula witnessed her father saying Kiddush....

Story 3 – Shalom Bayit (Based on a story I believe I read in Yated Neeman about 14 years ago) Dalia had been married to Eran for 2 years. Their lives were too busy for kids and after all, who wants to bring up children in a world full of problems? They lived in Raanana. Even though they were totally secular she had started going to Thursday night shiur with her friend given by a very charismatic Rebbetzen who lived in the area. They had gone just for a laugh but Dalia soon took to the Rebbetzon who was warm hearted, funny and full of wisdom.

One Friday evening, Eran was drinking a bear in front of the TV. Dalia nervously places Shabbat candles on the dinner table and lit them, waiting for her husband’s reaction. Eran looked up and saw the candles. He got up, took a cigarette from his pocket and used one of the candles to light up. Dalia burst into tears. She tried again the next week but Eran reacted in the same way. An argument broke out and curses were exchanged.

The next week, Dalia asked the Rebbetzin if she could spare her some time after the shiur. She had a serious Shalom Bayit problem. Two days later the Rebbetzin phones Eran up. She understood that he did not want anything to do with religion but for Shalom Bayit, could he please refrain from smoking whilst Dalia’s candles were burning. That’s all she asked. Eran said that that would be OK, he’d cope with that - for Shalom Bayit.

That week Dalia lit the Shabbos candles. Eran carried on watching the TV without lighting up. Weeks went by. Dalia prepared a Friday night meal for her husband. He turned off the TV and came to sit down with his wife. With the candles burning in the background, it made for a very romantic atmosphere. After the meal, Eran noticed that the candles had burnt out. He lit up and went back to the TV.

Months went by. Dalia was in the supermarket. She was about to pick up the standard No.16 candles (which burn for 1 hour and 20 minutes) when she stopped and thought for a second. A smile crossed her face as she picked up some No.8s. They would burn for twice as long.

Eran didn’t immediately notice the bigger candles that Friday night as they were having such a nice time together at the table. It was quite late when Eran got to light up. A few months later and Dalia was in the supermarket again. She decided to pick up some No.4 candles that burn for 6 hours. This time Eran noticed but said nothing. He went to bed that Friday night without smoking or turning on the TV. A promise is a promise and besides he noticed that he was beginning to look forward to their special intimate times together every Friday night.


A few more months go by. Dalia anounced that she was pregnant. Eran was overjoyed. The next week, Dalia was back in the supermarket. She was about to pick up the No.4 candles when she caught sight of some 25 hour Yurtzite candles. Dalia smiled...

1 comment:

Bouncer said...

Yup, it's agreed; Jews like chopped liver.