#BlogElul 18: Pray

#BlogElul 2013This post is scheduled to go live in the moments before I light Shabbat candles. Candle-lighting time here is at 7:05 PM, nearly a quarter of an hour earlier than the first Shabbat of Elul only two weeks ago. Next week, the final Shabbat before the New Year, we will light candles before seven o’clock for the first time since mid-April. The seasons are truly turning, even if I can’t yet tell by the weather.

When someone, traditionally a woman, kindles the Shabbat lights, she will first light the candles, wave her hands over the flames, and cover her eyes before she recites the bracha, the blessing: “Blessed are you, Adonai our god, Sovereign of the Universe, who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to kindle the light of Shabbat.” Then she opens her eyes to see the glow of the flames.

Shabbat candles

Sometimes I make my own Shabbat candles.

There may a small, yet discernible pause between “…l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat,” the last words of the bracha, and the uncovering of the eyes. Custom has it that this liminal moment between secular week and sacred Sabbath is a particularly auspicious time for prayer. I don’t know that the One to Whom I address my prayer keeps a timecard that says this moment is better than that moment for directing one’s attention to the Divine. I do know that the quiet ritual of candle-flame, murmured blessing, and the deep breath I take before I open my eyes makes me feel as if I don’t have to struggle so hard to find the right state of mind, the right kavanah, for prayer.

Shabbat shalom to you. May you find your own quiet, in-between moments in which the barriers fall away.


#BlogElul, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the month leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

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