Friday, December 24, 2010

My Mother's Sabbath Candles

Among the smiles, among the tears, of my childhood’s sweet and bitter years
There’s a picture that my memory fondly frames
And in it softly shine two tiny flames.
by Jack Yellen

Last night, I discovered the sheet music to the song I played on the piano for my mother’s pleasure. “My Mother’s Sabbath Candles” copyright 1950.

The black and white cover never faded, and for seventy five cents, I made an excellent investment into my spiritual virtual wallet.
My fingers know the piece by heart; the words are etched into my vaulted memory bank.

The Sabbath was born inside me two decades before I bought that musical notation in a store along Tremont Avenue in the Bronx. I experienced the rhythm of the Sabbath while wading in the water of my mother’s womb.The first genetic text messaging sent from the Divine produces a body activated timer response just as the sun descends into the evening’s shade. It automatically reminds me to pause faithfully, and to recreate the fire and the magic of my mother’s Sabbath candles.

My mother lived ninety five years and fulfilled this commandment four thousand nine hundred and forty times. For twenty two years, one thousand, one hundred and forty four times, I witnessed her lighting and praying over the Sabbath candles every Friday night. When I got married and left the home of my childhood, I took the ritual of lighting the Sabbath candles with me.

For their last eight years as seniors, my parents lived in Philadelphia in a one bedroom apartment that included a small square kitchen where only the appliances lived. With no breakfast area, the appliances shared the space with the family’s European candelabras on a shelf built specifically for these holy ritual objects.

The week before my mother died, I stood next to her in this kitchen as we lit the Sabbath candles together again. She leaned towards me as she waved her hands in front of the candles to usher in the Divine light. With her eyes closed, her mouth mumbling the customary blessing and her heart crying out with silent grief, she continued the tradition of her lifetime. My father’s Yahrtzeit, the one year anniversary of his death, occurred the Sunday before this Sabbath night. My father’s spirit sneaked into the following week and stayed to bless and temper our Sabbath sorrow. He resided in the tears that fell into my mother’s apron. He sanctified the space that lingered in the room with no windows. The glow of the fire was his soul’s longing to be at home again.. Perhaps it was my mother’s longing to be at home in his soul. Or both.

My mother died the following Sabbath in the early morning hours before dawn. I was not there to light the Sabbath candles with her for that very last time. I wasn’t there, but I picture my heavenly father leaning towards her as they both waved their hands towards the Divine light. Her final prayer had been answered.

My Mother’s Sabbath Candles
That made our home so bright
That faithfully she lighted with a prayer each Friday night

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