I just had an intense conversation with a congregant who is a friend, about her desire to infuse our basic Shabbat rituals, like lighting candles, with spirituality. More specifically, she relayed to me that she was raised doing these rituals, but resented them, because they seemed void of ‘meaning’, and thus, she grew up resenting them. This might sound familiar to some of you.
What I suggested to my friend is to make an effort to slow those rituals down, and then to articulate the symbolism of the ritual. With our Shabbat candles, this would involve gathering your family around you, dimming the lights, and letting a pregnant moment create some light drama. Then a preamble, perhaps about bringing light into a world that can seem dark… or that we have the power to light the candle and thus, if we choose, are bringers of light. The prayer, giving credit to God for empowering us with choice and allowing light to illuminate, can be explicitly credited as a metaphor for all the choices and the good that can be done.
The silence leading up to the prayer, the explanations, the action as metaphor, are all set against the soft flickering light of those whom love us most. And because of this, the quality of time ascends to a higher level, even for just that moment. Memories are created. Spirituality is infused into the mundane.
Blessed are you, God, who empowers us to kindle these lights of Shabbat.