Kindling the Lights of Peace: A Meditation for Shabbat Candle-Lighting

After lighting the Sabbath candles,
many people wave their hands in a circular motion three times
and bring their hands to their face when finished.
A beautiful interpretation of this practice
is that it helps us bring the light and peace of Shabbat
into our neshamahsneshamahנְשָׁמָהThe Godly soul.   , our homes, and our families.

What happens when we look out and see, so clearly and painfully,
that there is not yet peace in our world?

On any given week we might wonder…
how are we to bring peace into our homes?
We witness injustice and suffering.
We are frustrated when change for the better
is stymied and the repair of the world seems all too far away.

In ancient times when our ancestors suffered in Egypt,
their cries reached the highest of heavens, piercing them as a catalyst for change.
Is it not true that the cries of injustice and oppression can reach us as well?
Do they not circle ‘round the world and pierce our souls?

Sometimes we – I – might try to protect ourselves,
our fragile neshamahs, by closing our ears and eyes and hearts…
And then I remember… I who feel like I have had enough,
am I not writing from the comfort of my climate-controlled dining room
next to a kitchen stocked with pantry staples?
Shouldn’t it be my ears and eyes and heart
that remain open too?

Do we not hear the cries of bloodshed and violence;
hatred and fanaticism; hopelessness and intolerance?

Oseh Shalom
O God, we call You Maker of Peace.
Why is it that You don’t make peace here on earth?

Shalom Rav –
You are the God of Peace.
Place Your Great Peace
Upon Your children
Upon the world, our world, Your world!

I’m no expert at peace-making.
I simply know that what has been,
has not been sufficient.
And that what will yet be
must be, need be, demands
something different.

As we kindle the lights of the Sabbath

Might we not adapt the tradition of circling our hands
such that even as we bring the light into our neshamahs

our families and homes,
we also send it out into the world –
out into our homes, our towns, our nation and beyond.

We pray that the light and peace of Shabbat
meet those cries that are circling ‘round this world;
that it meet those cries with open heart.

No prayer alone can bring peace.
But without an open heart,
without the care and concern
of people all around the world,
without attention and love
there will be no peace.

We are taught that the Sabbath
is the great symbol of and teacher of peace.
These lights we kindle carry its promise.
I don’t know how peace will come.
But I know that it must yet be:

“Let it come
like wildflowers,
suddenly, because the field
must have it: wildpeace.”
- Yehuda Amichai