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Candles, a Practice of Faith



A deeper look at one of the holiday season's simplest rituals.

This article appeared in our December 2003 issue. Perhaps my current fascination with candles began one Friday night in June, sometime after sunset. In those days I usually spent Friday nights with my friend Kay. We would get gussied up and go to a restaurant on the Downtown Mall to feast, drink, and see what men we might meet. But on this Friday night I attended a potluck Shabbat dinner with the Jews who knew me as a child, who taught me to speak Hebrew, how to pray, how to organize my time, and how to cook for the holidays. I had not seen most of them in the decade since I had moved away, and later, converted to Christianity. Six years after that conversion, I am settled in the church, still in that blessed-out newlywed stage. Nevertheless, I miss Jewish ways — the rhythms and routines that draw the sacred down into the everyday. I miss Sabbaths on which I actually rested. I even miss the drudgery of keeping kosher. That night in June, I realized how much I missed the lighting of candles. Jews don’t light Sabbath candles simply because candles make them feel dose to God, but because God c …

Adapted from Mudhouse Sabbath, published November 2003 by Paraclete Press. Lauren F. Winner is the author of Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life (Algonquin 2002).

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