One Friday night, I came home from shul and approached our Shabbos table; set beautifully with dishes and linen, with the glow of the Shabbos candles adding to the ambiance. But I noticed something else. One of the candles had gone out. It was sad in a sense, but I figured we’d light it after Shabbos and all would be right with the world.
Indeed, I relit it, and went about my business. The flame was small but I was sure it would grow steadily and surely. But guess what? When I awoke in the morning, the candle had gone out again. I examined the wick. It was small but present. I adjusted it and lit the candle. It went out. Then, I scraped away a bit of the wax, relit it, and tilted it. The flame leapt up. Satisfied, I went back to doing other things.
I imagined to myself what a great lesson this would be for a column. How sometimes when you give up or give in a little, you can then succeed. However, a few moments later, I saw that once again the candle had gone out. This was going to be a little more involved than I thought!
I again adjusted the wick, lit the fire, tilted the melting wax away, and finally, it remained lit. As I sat down at my table, satisfied I’d done my job, I glanced over and saw the candle dark again. I was dismayed and stood up to try again. However, now I saw a small flame, not noticeable until I got up and looked closely, at the top of the candle. I waited.
Again, I glanced up at the candles, but this time I could see the aura of the flame through the wax, even though I couldn’t see the actual flame. I waited some more. Sure enough, within a few moments, the flame had taken hold and I knew that it was going to continue to burn on its own. I recognized that even the wax I’d scraped off or tilted into the glass candle holder was going to burn eventually, and it had not been wasted.
“Ner Hashem Nishmas Adam – Hashem’s candle is Man’s soul.” This experience made me think about raising children. Sometimes we just give them that initial spark, and they go on to light up the world. Sometimes, though, it requires more work.
The same conditions that work for one, or three, or five, may not work for this one or that one. You may find yourself fiddling with different options, trying to give them room to breathe and glow on their own. Some more sparks here, a little less wax there, and constant attention. Even when they ignite, the flame may look very different; maybe it’s smaller, maybe it’s tilted at a different angle. But the important thing is that it is aflame.
We have to tend to our children each in their own way. We can’t throw our hands up in disgust and say, “I tried!” if things don’t work out right away. We have to keep trying different things to help them grow, glow, and share their light with the world. We are caretakers and don’t have the choice to give up. The task must be done gingerly and lovingly. Force will just blow out the candle or melt it beyond repair. Getting angry with a candle doesn’t work, so why do we think it will work with a child who is Hashem’s candle? With patience and love, we can help fill the world with light. And sometimes, we have to wait and hope that they will light up on their own, as difficult as that may be. But you know what?
It’s not just children. Each of us is a candle; each of us has light to offer the world. We have been imbued by Hashem with fuel and a wick. Sometimes we need to work harder to find what will ignite that wick and we need to try different things to make our souls glow. We may not cast the same light as others, but that’s OK. The flame may be larger or smaller, or different colors, depending on what Hashem has made our candles out of.
The main thing is that we work to ensure that this candle isn’t viewed as defective or unable to light. We should not despair of being able to remain lit and glow. Hashem doesn’t make mistakes. He makes what He wants, and it’s we who are often mistaken in identifying what that is.
Instead of thinking it’s a lost cause, or just a shot in the dark, we need to reflect on what we’re made of, and how we can add to the light of the world. Then, hopefully, we will find the tweaks and tricks that will enable us to rise and shine.
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