It was a time of my life when I could not stop. I was running from place to place. There were so many calls I needed to make, so many people who were needing me for countless things. So many commitments. There were babies in nappies and children overseas. I was pregnant, in my early 40s and breathless. Whenever I saw a picture of a made-up bed, I could feel my insides crumple up, just the way I wanted to. Reading the book Curious George to my then 3-year-old son, and seeing the little monkey curl up into his made-up bed after a good meal and a pipe (?) served to him by the Man in the Yellow Hat, my mind would scream: “Where is this ‘Man in the Yellow Hat’ to put me to bed?”
The hardest part was that I had no time to stop, think and gain clarity, to hear what my heart was telling me. I would feel this most acutely after lighting Shabbat candles, when I would fall onto the couch. I would feel a slight anxiety creep into my heart that I had not davened at the Shabbos candles with enough oomph. What kind of Jewish mother was I? The archetypal Jewish mother cries as she lights candles. Tears, actual tears, run from her eyes, slowly trickle down her cheeks, fall to the ground, as her children look on in wonder.
My eyes were dry. The only tears I shed were those that escaped when I yawned those huge embarrassing yawns.
Yet I knew with that profound internal womanly knowledge – Binah – that candle lighting was my most precious time. I had so much to ask for. So many people needed so much, and week after week I was letting this extraordinary private meeting with the Creator of the Universe pass me by with nothing more than a quick scan of the standard tefilla.
Deep prayer, deep contemplation, takes time and energy. I had neither. Then the idea came to me. It doesn’t take much to read. I could sit and read a personal tefilla that I’d written from a place of strength and introspection.
It must have been an urgent notion because it was very unlike me to find a time, in the middle of my week, to close my door, actually lock it, switch off my phone and take a pencil and paper and start to write.
And the words came spilling out of me, and with them, beautifully enough, the tears I thought I could not muster. Hot tears streamed from my cheeks as my soul expressed its deepest yearning to its Maker. I was writing a letter to Hashem.
I followed the basic formula of prayer as I knew it:
Words of Praise
Words of Gratitude
Words of Petition
And because I had no time pressure, I took my time. I thought of all that Hashem had done for me, how He had protected me throughout my life and given me so much that I did not deserve. I felt breathless in the face of the magnitude of His generosity. And humbled as I realized how much I still wanted and needed.
With this powerful vitality flowing through me I then thought of every person in my life. My husband. Each one of my precious, delicious children. I first thanked Hashem for each of their successes and gifts and then thought of specific requests that each child needed at that stage of their life. The prayer then streamed into thoughts of their future spouses, how they would find each other, the homes they would build together and the children they would have. I wrote down my prayers for all of it. Finally, the words turned into prayers for my extended family, friends and community at large, for babies that needed to be born, for health that people craved and for parnassah that was crucial.
And the supplications kept pouring out.
The following Shabbat I took my four pages, sat by the candles and read them. And the entire week was different. Whenever an unsettling thought arose in my mind, I reminded myself of this time I had created at the end of the week to sit and speak to the Ribbono Shel Olam and comforted myself that I would bring it up then.
Week after week, month after month, year after year I said my prayer with unceasing devotion and intentionality. Eventually the pencil started to disappear from the pages, but the structure and words and access to this deeper place within me had become etched in my soul. As life evolved, so did the prayer. Daughters-in-laws and son-in-laws were added, and then, Baruch Hashem, grandchildren. Some themes changed and some remained, but the structure kept it all in place and fresh in my mind.
It is this structure I share with you now, with the blessing of the Shabbos Project, an inspired project that I believe is helping to bring Moshiach. Trust me when I tell you I am a private person. No WhatsApp, smartphone, or Facebook. “Brocha is when it is hidden” is my mantra. But now it is enough! Now I also need to help bring Moshiach, a deliverance from all the suffering and isolation and heaviness in the world.
So, I am sharing a part of me that is very private and tender, because I know in the deepest part of my being that Hashem has heard every word I have ever whispered, and has treasured my tears and happiness and gratitude and cries for help, and has answered all my deepest yearnings. And I want that for you, too.
Chachmas Nashim Bonsa Beiysa – “Feminine wisdom builds her home”, said the wisest of men, King Solomon. There is a wise woman who lives in each of us. She takes time and space to access and discover. But she knows the home she is building, her Bayis. And no one can disempower her or make her feel another woman would do a better job. We know deep within ourselves what our truth is, what we need, what our husband yearns for, and what is best for our kids.
Make the time and give yourself permission to trust your intuition. Follow this template or create your own. Arrive at the powerful, redemptive time of candle-lighting prepared to fight for your family and for yourself. Ask. Beg. Laugh. Share. Cry. Moan. Just talk to Him. He has been waiting your whole life to hear your voice and His deepest desire is to see every single one of us fulfill our purpose and destiny in this world. You are His precious daughter and these are your precious moments with Him.
Don’t waste them. Come prepared.
Ariella Wolf is passionate about supporting women deepen their relationship with themselves and with their Creator. She is a Registered Counselor and has just polished her skills at the Rivka Malka school of Coaching and Transformation. She is an Eizer K’negdo, Ima and Bobbie active in the community she has grown up in, in Johannesburg, South Africa.