October 22, 2020 •
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By Cantor Jessica Epstein

Someone is always crying, and often it’s me.

I always had this vision in my mind of how my Friday night Shabbat would be. There would be a white tablecloth. Check. There would be silver candelabras with Israeli candles in glass holders. Check. There would be a silver Kiddush fountain where wine is poured into holes that distribute it into six cups. Check. There would be a beautiful silver board with a fresh challah on it and a beautiful knife with which to cut it. Check. And most of all, there would be happy, smiling children who cannot wait to share this special moment with their parents.

Hold up.

Someone is always crying and often it’s me.

Whether it’s the end of the school week, the time pressure I’m under, or some combination of factors which I have not been able to determine over 11 years… There is constant drama at the Shabbat table.

Nevertheless, we persist.

I persist because I know in my heart that one day they’ll remember doing Shabbat with me. They may also remember having a tantrum. They may also remember the weekly ritual of spilling inky grape juice all over the white tablecloth. I hope they remember the taste of the chicken, the kugel, the noodles, the vegetables and the other foods I tried to make according to each person’s likes and whims. I hope they remember the way one person had the job of turning the lights down. I hope they remember bringing stuffed animals to share Shabbat. I hope they remember the way the candles danced in the dark after I came home from services. I hope they remember talking and laughing with us after the tears have dried. I hope they remember that I tried. Am trying… to create a special moment of the week that we can share. At times it seems a Sisyphean task.

Someone is always crying, and often it’s me.

If you think it’s easy to light Shabbat candles every week, and that it’s going to be some haimische Norman Rockwell moment, you’re wrong. If you have children it’s going to be a pain in the ass. But do it anyway.

Do it because it’s important. Do it because it’s our heritage. Do it because it’s our tradition. And if you don’t do it, they won’t pass the tradition onto their children or the next generation beyond them. And in the end that’s all Judaism is. Passing down meaningful traditions. Period. End stop.

If you stop lighting the candles they won’t light the candles and soon no one will light candles. Darkness.

It’s never too late to start. Try it this week. Then email me or text me with how it went. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s ok.

A Friday night without Shabbat candles in the house does not seem whole to me.

Tantrums, screams, hiding under the table, the throwing of various utensils, and so much more drama happens weekly at my white table clothed Shabbat table. I won’t lie, it’s very tiring. Yet, we persist.

Someone is always crying, and often it’s me.

I live in hope that one day they will sit, tears dried, holding conversations amiably with one another, and happily eating the food I make. Until then, I’ll keep lighting the candles anyway. I suggest with my whole heart that you do the same.

Shabbat shalom.


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