I’m usually late.
Not embarrassingly late, or miss the plane late, just a few short minutes late.
And every Friday, literally, no matter what time candle lighting is, I’m running late.
I can be super-organised all Friday, relaxing and meeting a friend for coffee at 2pm, silently congratulating myself on finally having it together, and getting Shabbos all ready by Friday morning, but come 20 minutes before candle lighting, we can’t find the hairbrush, someone is missing their shoes and nobody knows where the timer for the hotplate is – and suddenly – Shabbos is starting in two minutes and we are not ready.
A friend told me recently how she likes to light candles a few minutes early every week, to add to Shabbos.
I heard the words she was saying, but it barely felt like English as they made so little sense to me.
I’m gonna get there one day, but first I need to get to candle lighting on time without feeling like I just ran a marathon.
But, as out of breath and frazzled as I am when I arrive at our special little place we have in our house for our Shabbos candles, it is my favourite three minutes of the week. My kids are all freshly bathed, with shiny brushed hair, and beautiful Shabbos clothing (with or without the missing shoe), my table is set, and the house smells of challah, chicken soup and cake.
I strike a match, and my oldest daughter goes first, holding my fingers as we press the flame against the wick. My younger daughter patiently waits her turn, and then she too holds my hand as I gently light her candle.
I light the two candles on top of the silver candlesticks, gleaming in the pinkish light of the African sunset streaming through my window, and then more candles, one for each of my children. My kids watch as, one by one, each candle is lit.
“Ain, tzvei, drei,”
My children count to three in Yiddish with me, as we wave our hands over the flames, my girls and my two little boys, all of our hands creating shadows on the walls from the candle light.
I cover my eyes and say the blessing out loud with them.
We pray for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, and utter the names of those in need of a cure, my children carefully repeating the Hebrew names after me.
And then we are silent, each one of us praying to G-d behind our fingers.
I pray for peace in our home, for joy, for health, for clarity, for sanity.
I uncover my eyes.
My daughter stands next to me, her eyes squeezed shut, covered by her delicate fingers.
I listen to her whispers.
Please, Hashem, let this one get married, and please let this one have a baby…
She is saying the names of friends and family in need.
Her complete sincerity brings tears to my eyes.
She finishes and we all hug each other.
“Group hug,” we say, as we laugh and giggle as I kiss their cheeks, wishing each one a good Shabbos.
I don’t always feel the spirituality of the moment.
But, that day, that candle lighting, my daughter did.
Temmi Hadar was born and raised in Seattle in a family of 10, Temmi Hadar is currently living in Joburg trying to stay sane and spiritual as a wife, mother, teacher, rebbetzin and human.