02 Feb MY MOTHER’S CANDLE FOR ME
One Friday evening the conversation at the table turned to the Shabbat candles, whose kindling is in itself a beautiful way of ushering in the sacred day of rest. Lighting a candle is rich in symbolism. There are acts which we do totally for ourselves, and others which may be completely altruistic. Generating light, however, defies such limitations. I may light the candle for myself, but I cannot contain the light, because of necessity it illuminates the room for others. If I create light for the benefit of another, I too can see better. What better way to begin the Shabbat, the final step in creation of the universe and its ultimate goal, than by lighting the candles, an act which symbolically binds the inhabitants of the world together. None of us can be an island; what I do affects you, and what you do must have bearing upon me. If we could only realize this, we would well understand why the candle lighting is referred to by our sages as an essential for peace in the household. Dissension can occur only when individuals believe they are separate and distinct and can each go their own particular way, untouched by one another. Our Shabbat guest asked why there were six candles burning on our table rather than the usual two. One of the lights Mother kindled each Friday night was for me. I told him it was traditional in many families to begin lighting two candles after marriage, and to add an additional candle for each child. One of the lights Mother kindled each Friday night was for me. I recall how much this had meant to me as a child, when I used to watch the flames flicker and realize that the house, nay, the world, was a brighter place because of my existence. The full impact of this message did not occur until many years later, when it became evident to me in my psychiatric practice that countless people have emotional problems and varying psychological symptoms because of deep-seated feelings of inadequacy. There are numerous reasons why people have unwarranted feelings of inferiority, and this is not the place to elaborate on these. Suffice it to say that anything that can be done to counteract these influences contributes to a person’s sense of adequacy and wholesomeness, and allows a more satisfactory adjustment to life. Non-verbal communications are frequently more impressive than verbal. The weekly message to a child, delivered at the initiation of Shabbat, that his being has brought additional brightness into the home can be a powerful ingredient in one’s personality development.