a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

New Shabbat Candles, a bedroom Mezuzah, and other Hiddur Mitzvah

Posted on: October 31, 2010

בָּרוּך אַתָּה אַדָנָ-י אֱ-להֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם אַשֶׁר קִדְשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶל שַבָּת קודֶש

Transliteration: Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat

Translation: Blessed are you, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the Holy Shabbat.

While I was home in Ohio I purchased some pewter candle sticks at my favorite antique shop at the Erie Street Market.  They’re simple candle sticks with nice weight and until now I’m not sure what they were used for.  From here on out, they will be my Shabbat candle sticks.  If you’re a New Yorker, you know we are lucky enough to have a wide array of Judaica stores at our disposal.  I’ve shopped at West Side Judaica and of course, Eichler’s in Ditmas Park/Midwood is one of my favorites.  To be frank, they can be really expensive for Shabbat items.  For books, mezuzah, or even kippah it’s totally worth the trip; the experience alone is amazing.  So much so, my conversion rabbi encouraged us to visit Judaica stores if only for the experience and I love browsing the many books wishing that I knew Hebrew so I could read them.

For me, though, finding these simple pewter candle sticks was a coup.  I’d been searching for them since I made the decision to convert to Judaism.  I’ve scoured online Judaica shops, silver shops on Avenue J(ew), and of course my favorite stores to no avail.  I was thinking of buying some simple glass candle sticks at my job but didn’t feel like they would be my Shabbat candles.  I didn’t picture them to be engraved, gilded, or magnificent, but I knew what I wanted them to look like.  In my mind’s eye I knew what I was looking for.

My new Shabbat Candle sticks

So Friday afternoon Mirs and I go on our weekly Shabbat shopping.  We went to our favorite bakery for challah, we searched for Kosher wine, and browsed some Judaica shops.  We went to Hecht’s, on Coney Island Avenue and 30 minutes later I walked out $80 lighter.  Unlike the larger Judaica stores in Ditmas Park/Midwood, Hecht’s is a small, slightly cramped store filled to the gills with many Judaica objects from Hamsas, to Mezuzah, to kippah, to books, and of course, Shabbat Candles.  I purchased a mezuzah for my bedroom, a home Hamsa, and several other things to help with Hiddur Mitzvah, or the beautification of a mitzvah.  Hmm, take one shopaholic and add hiddur mitzah and you get a BIG problem.  It’s an actual mitzvah, commandment, to beautify your home.

The plan was to light the Shabbat candles for the first time in my life, head to Shabbat service at Congregation Beth Elohim with friends, and have dinner before returning home.  I opened the box of 72 candles “made in Israel”, the sales lady told me, “not china” with the excitement and expectation that can only be likened to opening a present …

…just to find that they were the wrong size.  She told me they’d fit any Shabbat candle holder but they do not fit my candle sticks.  Maybe it’s because I went for really affordable antique candlesticks vs made-to-fit Shabbat candlesticks but I was heartbroken.  My candles are squat little nubs of candles and my pewter bases demand large candles.

Long story short, I did not get to light Shabbat Candles on Friday and I was upset.  I’d been so proud that I could finally sing the whole blessing, in two melodies, and didn’t get the opportunity to do so.  The beauty of Shabbat is that it comes around every week so there’s always next week.  For now, my focus is on preparing my talk for Be’chol Lashon affixing my new mezuzah, and finding new candles that fit the stick.

Just in case you want the blessing for affixing a mezuzah, here it is thanks to About.com and Anita Diament’s book Living a Jewish Life.

Baruch atah Adonai  Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu likboa mezuzah.

Blessed be the Eternal One, Source of Life, by Whose power we sanctify life with the mitzvah of affixing this mezuzah.

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