As the first Shabbat of the new year arrives, as light fades, as the skies darken, I think of what it means to create a palace in time, as Abraham Joshua Heschel describes the sabbath, what it means to create a sacred space in the frenzy of our everyday lives.
I think of what it means to rest.
Time passes through my fingers like water, but how to grasp each moment, each precious drop, even as it slips by and hold it close.
How to live in the flow, not rail against it, to see time, and its passing, as a blessing.
Especially as I age, I feel the need to lessen the busyness, to put aside my calendar, to take off my watch, to let go of my to do list, to think less of what I do and more of who I am.
And Shabbos provides that space, like a break in a line of poetry, a rest in a musical score, a long exhale, beautiful metaphors Judith Shulevitz offers in her book The Sabbath World.
And so it is that I bentsh likh, light candles, on that first Shabbos, I close my eyes, whisper the blessing while circling my hands over the flames, not once but three times, bringing in the light for myself and my family, and extending it further and then further again to those beyond.
The candles sit in silver candlesticks, an engagement gift from my paternal grandmother. They stand proudly on a shelf next to a second pair, also burnished silver, from my mother, and a third, sparkling crystal, that belonged to my mother in law, and next to two more, gifts from my daughters. They remind of those who came before, and those who come after, all bringing light into the world.
I cherish those few moments each Friday night, even if it is only for blessing candles and challah and wine. I’m grateful for the pause that Shabbos brings, for the deep breath it allows, for the time to reflect and renew, to think of all I’ve been given. And say thanks.
So it was that I was invited to offer a Shabbat blessing for a young soon to be married couple. A close friend was gifting them 52 sets of Shabbos candles, enough for each Friday night of their first year of marriage, and asked their friends and families to send blessings for the newlyweds, one for each week.
I was honored to be included, and I thought long and hard about a few words to share. And then it came to me, as I began to think about what it means to take a time out every week, even if it is only for a few minutes or an evening or a full 25 hour traditional Shabbos.
And so I wished them a lifetime of joyous Shabbats filled with light, love and laughter, and a reminder of how lucky they were to have found each other and how lucky they are to welcome Shabbos together each week.
So it is that we are taught that the stars are aligned when we meet our bashert. And so it is that the stars are aligned each Friday at sunset when we take time to recall that fortuitous pairing and the good fortune of making a life together.
And taking the time to remember that each week, is the most precious gift we can give or receive.