Lighting Shabbat Consciousness
Shabbat Consciousness is the fuller awareness that allows us to remember the deeper nature of our being. Shabbat Consciousness allows us to remember our connections to each other and to our planet, and that consciousness is available to us always. But because the normal course of our lives keeps us so busy, it's impossible to experience that fuller awareness all the time. So we are given Shabbat to remind us of that without which the deeper meaning of life is hidden. The symbols of Shabbat, as well, are tools we are given to help us appreciate that deeper meaning.
Traditionally, the Shabbat candles are lit 18 minutes before Shabbat actually begins. If you are observant of all the mitzvot, once it's Shabbat you cannot light the candles anymore. Therefore, the ordinary order of saying a blessing and immediately following it by performing the action which is included in the blessing is not possible. So the tradition has decided that the lights are kindled prior to the blessing. But you then either close your eyes or hold your hands in front of your eyes so that you don't see the light. While you are not looking at the candles, you say the blessing and, after the blessing, you open your eyes and, lo and behold, the light is there.
This is a beautiful metaphor because it has to do with the essence of the nature of blessing. Normally, we think that we awaken to blessing when we see something wonderful in our lives, but it works the other way as well. When we bless, we make ourselves available to see something beautiful, to feel something beautiful, to receive something beautiful, to express something beautiful in our lives.
It's as if the first kindling is not the real light. Instead, before saying the blessing, we have to go inside. We find the Light inside. We connect to that Light and we bless it. The true light of Shabbat awakens in the space of the mind, in the space of the heart, within every cell of the body--it is a Light of Wholeness, a Light of Healing, a Light of Holiness. Then we turn our attention to the outer world and find that Light reflected there.
Our own intention, through our own kavannah, allows us to participate in creation itself. The light we see in the outer world is more because of our blessing. The outer world itself is more because of our blessing.
Shabbat Consciousness opens us to the more profound celebration of the Creation for which we share responsibility.
©2001 Rabbi Ted Falcon, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
This piece was originally published at the Bet Alef website.
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