Written for the Second Retreat of the Slingshot Fellowship on April 30th, 2021.
Shabbat is a chance to see things afresh, with new eyes. Just as we did with the last retreat, we’ve intentionally woven a Shabbat Spark into our time together and as a source of knowledge for our work.
There’s a tradition that I’ve always loved, but I think a lot of us take it for granted. We officially mark the beginning of Shabbat by lighting candles. But we don’t just light them and say a blessing. There’s so much more to candle lighting than just striking the match, lighting the wick, and saying the blessing. There’s also how we physically transform ourselves through the process. Have you ever noticed that we do a symbolic psycho-physical mini dance that totally changes our perspective?
Imagine you are lighting Shabbat candles. After the wicks are lit, you circle your hands over the flames, gathering the light and bridging it close to you. Then you close your eyes, covering your eyes with your hands.
Why? What is this about? Why would you draw the light to you if you are going to doubly shut it out by both closing and covering your eyes?
All of this, the match, the flame, the candles, the prayer, drawing the light in, double blocking the light from your eyes so that your eyes can’t send the signal to your brain, all of this is for the moment when you take your hands away and open your eyes. That is the threshold, the moment of change. That is the first instant where you are now IN Shabbat AND you see the candles anew, as if for the first time, doubly bright.
Shabbat gives us a way to physically embody seeing what was already there in a new way. For the rest of Shabbat, we get to have a new and different perspective on the world. This is a powerful gift because as hard as it can feel to change your mind or your change your perspective, our tradition gives us a way, every week, to practice doing just that. Our tradition teaches us this through lighting candles, but we can also do this now, or at any moment we need, by pausing and making the choice to see things in a different way.
So let's bring Shabbat in a little early, right now. Let’s allow ourselves to have a new perspective, and see things a little differently. Let's close our eyes, cover them with our hands, and pause for a moment, taking a deep breath. Let’s go behind our eyes to our brain, and reset the input signals. Let’s welcome the ability to see the world in a new way.
PAUSE FOR A MOMENT OF RESET
Now open your eyes, and with our Shabbat eyes, let's see what we can see differently.
Sarah Strnad is the Director of Community Development at Slingshot.