Lighting Candles, Linking Hands
The fire struck me as dangerous and beautiful. I knew that, unconstrained, it could destroy. But what felt stronger to me was watching as my mom tamed the fire, and pointed its energy towards connections, rather than destruction. The controlled way in which the candlesticks grounded the flames intrigued me.
Before it was safe for me to use matches, I remember looking forward to the first Shabbat when I could light my own candles. Now, when I light the candles on Friday nights, I feel empowered. I feel as if my mother and I are physically bringing Shabbat into our home as we strike our matches and light our candles. There is power in creating a spark. As we light, we welcome Shabbat, we welcome each other, we welcome the rest of our family, and we welcome our guests. When I watch the flames glint, the candles shrink, and the wax drip, I feel connected to other women in my family who have lit Shabbat candles generations before me.
I also feel connected to Nina, a family friend who has become family, and who now lives too far away to share our Shabbat table. But from when I was a baby to when I was thirteen, we did share a table, alternating houses each Friday night. Watching my mom and Nina together taught me about friendship. I could see, from how they interacted, how much they cared about each other.
The silver, wax-covered candlesticks that I use now aren’t mine. Nina used to use them. They’ve been passed through hands, creating links among the women whose hands have held them. They act as pillars, supporting the weight of sororal strength.
These candlesticks that aren’t mine guide me. They are present in my earliest memories of sisterhood. They were present when I learned how to light the candles. Today, they ground me in my friendships. Although I rarely celebrate Shabbat with my friends now, the sisterhood that the candlesticks represent for me frames how I think about friendship. To me, sisterhood is a bond across space and time, and generations. Friendship is a more tangible bond in the here and now. I think of my friendships as applied sisterhood.
The flames of these candlesticks are like the sparks of my friendships. And in those sparks, I see power, too. I see power in the ways that my friendships support me, just as these candlesticks ground the fire. I see strength in the bonds forged by my friendships, and beauty in our connections.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Glickman, Abigail. "Lighting Candles, Linking Hands." 24 October 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on June 4, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/lighting-candles-linking-hands>.