In this piece, the author describes Shabbat as a holistic experience, beginning with the lighting of the Shabbat candles. She suggests that the two candles represent different dualistic aspects we encounter in the world. Deeply personal and spiritual, with references to many different Jewish sources, this article is perfect for anyone looking to deepen their Shabbat experience with new ideas. This excerpt comes from a longer article, entitled “The Sabbath as a Journey Through the Worlds,” written by Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, an author, teacher, mystic, and poet, who believes that nature, ritual, and story connect us to the cosmos and ourselves. The full article can be read on Tel Shemesh, a web resource for those who are attempting to integrate Jewish faith and practice with earth-based beliefs and ways of living.
The Sabbath as a Journey Through the Worlds
Each week, on Shabbat, I journey through my senses: the smell of the match as I light the candles, the blue-purple color of the evening sky as I sing the seven psalms welcoming Shabbat, the feel of cold water on my hands as I ritually wash before the Friday night meal, the taste of the Shabbat wine, the sound of birds as I walk to synagogue in the morning holding the embroidered bag with my tallit (four-cornered prayer shawl). For me, Shabbat is a day of rest and of religious obligation, and it is also a shamanic journey, a cleansing descent into the depths of the spirit, ending with return to sacred work in the world
My own travel through the Sabbath begins with the lighting of Sabbath candles. I cover my eyes and recite the blessings, then uncover my eyes to reveal the twin lights in front of me. Each week they seem to teach a different duality: action and reflection, life and death, the heavens and the earth, the male and the female, the animate and the inanimate, the upper mother and the lower mother. This is the beginning of an elemental journey that will take me from fire through air, water, and earth. Fire is a symbol of the spirit, and after lighting the candles, I try to guide my spirit into a peaceful place. The food has all been prepared, the guests, if there are guests, are already invited, and the lights are dimmed—even if I am in a hurry, my spirit calms within me.
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