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Comments

T_M

It bothers me that the conversation became disrespectful and I'm glad to say that it is not being done by many people.

Miriam

"the presence of these candles works the opposite effect: they make me lonelier."
When I was single I didn't light candles either. I felt the exact same way.

Mirty

The note of sadness in your post moved me. I don't think you should light candles if it makes you feel lonely. In Reform congregations, candles are lit at the beginning of Friday night services, the entire congregation together. It's a nice communal observance.

At home, it's my stepson, rather than my stepdaughter, who wants to light Shabbos candles. I have no idea why it worked out this way, but he really wants to do it, so he and I light them together.

Essie

I am also single but I light candles every Friday night. I feel it's one of those things that keeps me connected to Judaism. Although I am fully Shomeret Shabbat I would still light candles even if I didn't observe the Shabbat. Why don't you give it a try again? (Hint: You can put the candles on top of the stove or in the sink to lessen the chance of fire)

Coelecanth

I was raised in a strictly non-religious environment. My father was a violent atheist, literally violent, and wouldn't tolerate anything religious in his presence. I became an agnostic who, when asked about religion and faith, still shrugs his shoulders and says "I don't know."

My brother and I were the poor kids in a rich high-school, we lived in a different neighbourhood than most of our classmates. That, combined with a disfunctional home life, made for a childhood notable in it's isolation.

I don't mind it now. I don't need a lot of people in my life to keep me happy, but my brother never got over the lack. He was always searching for a group that would accept him. It took him down some bad paths, not quite dead-or-in-jail bad, but heading that way. He even married inappropriately and ended up taking 6 years of lawyerly effort to get a divorce.

But eventually he found a group who would accept him. He's now Pentecostal. The bornest of born-agains. It's fascinating to watch him struggle with his faith while embracing, (revelling in, I'd go so far) the tightknit community he's joined. That community has done him a world of good. It remains to be seen if the faith he's still learning does him as much good.

Can you seperate faith from community? Should you even try? We're social animals that are generally happiest in small groups. Shared pain is lessened and shared joy is increased and isn't faith all about celebrating joy and mitigating pain?

Nice post, lots to think about.

Z

I completely understand how you feel about this. And I particularly understand your feelings about fire because it's one of our prime concerns too...living in a 100+ year old home which is 20 feet across the yard from the next home!

While our Reform congregation lights together at services, we do light at home as well. My son lights his pair, I light mine. But if we're going to go to services at 8:00...we extinguish them. One, our house would go up and two, our neighbors would as well.

Shoshana

I love lighting Shabbos candles, especially in my own apartment, and try to do so whenever possible. There is something in the flames that I feel is really spiritual, though I can't explain it. Also, it is beautiful thinking that Jews everywhere are lighting candles at sunset and saying the same prayer over them. I always feel it connects me to others, and probably to my past, when my mother would like candles on Friday nights. I don't know about it making the world a better place, but it makes me feel better, even if only for a moment.

Petitedov

Beautiful post Esther. I was talking to someone recently about the fact that a lot of Jewish customs, traditons, and even faith is based around a small knit community. It's hard to find a balance between modern life (especially in a place like NYC) and old way of life where every knew your name and buissness. There a lot of paradoxes i find in things that at times make me feel good and then have the reverse effect.

PepGiraffe

You have beautifully articulated how I feel. I know you were probably trying to articulate how you feel, but you did serious double duty here.

Since you had been mentioning Jewlicious, I went over there and I came across the post and comments you are talking about and it upset me so much that I left and am not putting them on my regular rotation.

And, Shabbat Shalom

Esther

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful comments. It's great to see you all commenting here.

PepGiraffe, give Jewlicious another try. I think they're worth it, or I wouldn't be writing for them. FWIW.

Lee

Light them where you eat! Get there before candle-lighting time, and bond with your host(s).

Esther

Lee, that's a great idea. Except for the fact that most Friday nights, the only host involved is the Lord of Hosts. But not a bad idea in theory...

Thanks for visiting!

When a woman lights candles, she has a direct line to Heaven. Pray hard, right then, 1) for the ability to pray, and 2) for a family. The more you find it hard, the more it is worth to G-d! Why is nobody around?? Invite other single frum folks, some BTs and ANY genuine Jew who will act right. They should: arrive on time, carrying: MUCH wine, ice cream, Kedem grape juice, Entemanns cakes, BIG bags of fresh fruit, and many bags of pre-cut salad. You: put a bag of dried beans, a box of brown rice, handful of parsley, barley and a few chicken parts into the crock pot on Friday MORNING. Get a round robin going: - everyone's house in turn, pulling in passersby all the time. Position yourself as GIVING to the lonely, and you will FORGET you ever used to be one of them. You will 1) have tons of fun, 2) stay observant, and ...3) meet people...Preserve gender roles. Women light, men read from the siddurs. The more crowded it is, the more laughter! Put the candles on a metal tray, well stuck down into the holders, not near any curtains, or anybody's beautiful, long hair. Hang a sheet for a mechitza if you do not have a folding screen. Start inviting people on TUESDAY at the latest. Nobody will feel awkward if this is every week without fail. It wasn't put on for THEM. It's just part of the usual program. AM Yisroel Chai, baby.

Chaya

Esther, I really enjoyed reading this. I'm not a blogger and dont go around the internet reading these things but I followed this link and I'm glad that i did. Maybe i should do it more often. As others have said before me you really summed up my feelings regarding the rituals that i grew up with being connected to family and community. It seems the older I get without being married or having children the less connected I am to the Jewish community. It is very confusing because i think that socially and culturally being a religious jew is part of my personality and it is difficult to dissconnect the two. I too have stopped lighting shabbos candles. It has slowly fallen out of my life and I dont really miss it. What makes me sad is that it is not just lighting candles, it's making kiddush, or even davening on yom kippur. I remember the days when I had just SO MUCH kavanah in shul, i was fasting and focused. I had tears in my eyes praying for my bashert and a wonderfully large family while i was young. Every year i'd renew my confidence that all my happiness was right around the corner. I realize that i've given up on that orthodox religious dream and for the most part i think it's because my personality just did not and does not fit in with those roles. I wish that i was simpler and would be happy with just the family and rituals but i'm not that simple and while exploring this wild and wonderous world of the arts and work I find those pockets of happiness and faith that things are going along as they should be and that G-d is directing things as they should be going. I also identified very strongly with your writings on isolation that is magnified with all these rituals to do and with no immediate family to do them with.

Thank you for your words it helps to realize i'm not alone in my isolation.

Chaya

Esther

I'm always a strange blend of gratified and upset when what I write resonates with other people, because it means that I'm not alone, but that other people are also suffering.

Chaya, thanks so much for opening up your heart to me and to my readers. I hope they'll be respectful in their responses.

Jewish Mother

Men are focused, narrow. They have to be. We complain they lack breadth. Of course they lack breadth. That is the result of having to be more focused. No matter HOW focused we are, they are focused DIFFERENTLY. They have further to fall. Their texture is different.

Our stance should be: we should accept their differentness. And they should hail a cab because we are in heels, (low, comfortable, cute little heels). They should accept our differentness, too. They like to see us in heels, and the right men do not mind hailing a cab, they understand.In fact this is a useful test.

You do not owe him being the same as him.

Even if you and your husband have the same opinions and like the same movies, your husband is still not going to bleed the same color as you. The thing about men is they are not women.

There is nothing wrong with this. We must NOT insist on their hitting every note and touching every base with us. But there ARE standards they must meet, standards of normal manhood. However, it is OK if your husband ignores you at breakfast (he's not up yet) or votes to the right of you. Who cares. One Jew, one vote. It's a free country.

If you look good, decide which man you want.
If you don't look good, fix that, then decide which man you want.

You should look like a nice WOMAN, every single minute of your life, not just when you "have a date", that stupid phrase. People eat. People drink. People take a walk. Forget the word "date". Then if somebody wants to see you, there is none of this "uh oh, I have to transform myself into cute for this dude. Sigh. Damn him anyway. Why can't I just be myself." The usual you should be the adorable you. Looking date-ready should be totally normal and instinctive. Work on it. You deserve it. Spend the money.

Oh, and light the Shabbat candles. Wearing black lace. You MUST be gorgeous, to honor the Shekinah. It's Shabbos, damn it! Put on a necklace, or a bangle. Something. I don't care if it's costume jewelry.

Get over your "vulgar" taboo.

Every piece of clothing you wear above the waist should be black. Including comfy black cotton camisoles, cotton cardigans. Play dress-up. You have a RIGHT to be a GIRL. If you like pants, all right already, but they should be matte black or black or kakhi jeans. Burn all denim that is not black or kakhi. Burn it. No blue denim. And no denim at all is even better. Be a lady. Don't wear clothes that could also be worn by a guy, or by someone who is twelve years old.

Are you wearing enough eye makeup? Does your hair mean something? People should know you have given your hair some thought.

DON'T tell me you are home alone on Friday night. Is your crock-pot broken??? Where are your single frum friends?

I hear huge sunglasses are in. That's easy, and works. Don't be caught in little sunglasses.

Jobber

Esther I wish you the best of luck. I feel the same way on doing alot of religious 'stuff', that I used to do, but now, I feel empty in doing them. What you are describing is a crisis of faith imo. I am going though this as well. I used to attend a shiur, a class in Judaism 3 times a week, religiously. Now maybe twice a month. WHat has happened? There is pain inour lives where there used to be none or less. Constant pain, not a one shot deal.

I support you and pray for your deliverance.
Good Luck,
Peace,
Jobber

There are only two questions:

1) how are the children?
2) what are you reading?

The air the Jews are breathing is very different from ten years ago. We have a right to be depressed about this.

Naturally we try to carry on and stay positive.

But you would be made of stone if you were not affected by the present climate.

It's not you!

When I mentioned black lace, I was not talking about seamed stockings, bustiers or garter-belts for crying out loud. I was talking about looking like you are a normal person not a fantasy, but grown up, with completely effortless class. A deadpan who-me elegance, where nobody ever catches you trying, even though you are. Because it is done right. Working this out takes effort but is a ton of fun. It is an art form.

A Jewlicious T-shirt is great, but it must be black.

Be comfy but perfect. We have all seen people like that, and we can all get that. Most of it is in the mind. We CAN scrape off the natural look.

Yes, natural works on professional models. But normal-looking people, civilians, have to do something else. We have to think. It keeps us on our toes and proud of ourselves.

The truly skillful can do this for very little money. And with very little dry-cleaning. THAT's the goal.

employmentchallenged

I would like to analyze how the truly devout of Jews, get through such a situation, as we have seen more than one blog where the persons religiousity gets temporarily suspended. I have read somewhere that a famous Rabbi said that those in pain are not expected to do all the rituals as they did. I feel that the main point is that one has to have optimism for the future, even as the present is less than optimal.

I think that if one has this optimism, and nurtures it, that is like they are keeping all the rituals.

The methods of nurturing optimism is a separate topic.

sol123

IT IS WELL THAT WAR IS SO
TERRIBLE.OR WE SHALL GROW TO FOND OF HER.


PERSEVERANCE AND SPIRIT HAVE DONE WONDERS IN ALL AGES.

smartalek

wow. What a great and thoughtful and heartfelt post.
A thought, if you are struggling with faith:
If you are not feeling happy, but force yourself to smile-- and keep smiling -- you will eventually feel happy... or at least happier.
This is not Californian self-affirmation new-age bs, this is scientific research. It used to be assumed that emotions drove somatic (bodily) responses -- you feel, then what you feel is reflected in how you act, and in particular, in your facial expressions. Turns out, it's the other way 'round; your body reacts, THEN the brain interprets that input as emotion. Hugely counterintuitive, I know -- but true, and well supported in the literature. (I wish I had studies to cite for you -- I don't. But if you google enough, you can find the cites.) Studies in which subjects were told to weep, they became sad. Told to laugh, they became joyous. Who knew?
So: I wonder if something analogous can happen with your faith? If you light the candles -- who knows, maybe you will feel the reaffirmation that you seek? (Sorry, presumptuous. Mayube you don't seek. But seem to miss, at least.)
Can't hurt -- esp if you follow the advice above and put them in the sink when you leave. (Safety first!)
It's like the old logical puzzle about belief: makes sense to ACT as though you do. If you're right, you win. If you're wrong, you don't lose.
In any event, an interesting experiment. Keep us posted?
I wish you the very best in all your pursuits.

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