I remember the first time I lit Shabbat candles three days after our beloved shul burned down and we lost six Sifrei Torah and countless memories. A shul is so much more than a structure – it's a spiritual home and a Torah scroll, although parchment and ink are living, breathing things. I remember watching the flames dance in my candlesticks and trying hard not to associate the flames with the smell of the ash and smoke that I breathed in when my husband had eventually come home from that devastating night. It was hard to imagine that we would ever be able to look at fire again without fear, tears and pain. Yet a year later, almost to the day of the fire, we were gifted with a baby boy. Born a few days before Chanukah, we have named him Neriya (candle or torch of G-d). Over the year, we saw how a fire united our community, brought with it a sense of purpose, resilience and an inner drive to continue no matter what. It has taught us to be flexible, innovative and to focus on what really matters, the people who form a community and make it into a family. Like everything in life, we have a choice of how we interpret the events that happen in our lives: are we crushed by them or do we see them as opportunities for growth and inspiration? When I light my candles now, I choose to focus on gratitude, for the G-d-given miracles of my children and the wonderful community I have the privilege of being a part of. Fire can be destructive, but it can also provide warmth, light and guidance. May your Shabbat candles dance as they usher in the magical glow of Shabbat and may your home always be blessed with the warmth and happiness that gratitude brings.
Johannesburg, South Africa