Reclaiming Our Hidden Light (Or Ganuz): A Shabbat Candle Lighting Ritual

split screen of two photos, one of light-skinned woman with short brown hair, hands open over lit shabbat candles, second image same woman has her hands over her face blessing the shabbat candles

Midrash Bereishit Rabbah teaches that the first Shabbat was a day of continuous light, a sacred and special light created by God that lasted 36 hours. This light lasted only then, hidden away from us since. How do we bring this or ganuz – this sacred and hidden light – back into our lives?

One way to do it is with the Shabbat candles. Traditionally, there is a hand movement that precedes Shabbat candle lighting. We light the candles, wave our hands three times over them (repeating each time, “barukh hu u’barukh shemo,” blessed is God and God’s name), as though to bring the light closer to us, then cover our eyes with our hands to recite the blessing. The following ritual builds on this practice by adding hand gestures and meditations after reciting the blessing. You might choose to do both sets of hand gestures before and after candle lighting.

BLESSING

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה, יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ, מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל שַׁבָּת .אמן

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha-olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat. Amen.

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe, who bless us with Your mitzvot and command us to kindle the lights of Shabbat. Amen.

RITUAL

After saying the blessing over the candles, using hand gestures:

  1. Take the light inward – scoop the light and bring it to your forehead, then to your lips.

Pause for a deep breath, close your eyes, and think about all the parts of yourself that need tending this week. Where has light been missing? If your back aches, or your heart has been hurt, send the light from the candles there to heal it. Finish with gratitude to God for this light of healing.

  1. Spread the light outward – wave the light from the candles to the sides, to share it with your loved ones (those who live with you or elsewhere).

Pause for a deep breath, close your eyes, and think of all the people in your life who need the light of Shabbat: whether they are dealing with sickness or having hard times, or just because you want to bless them with love and light, and bring more joy to their life in the week ahead.

  1. Spread the light upward – lift the light up to the air, to share it with the world.

Pause for a deep breath, close your eyes, and think of all the places in the world that need the light of Shabbat: near or far, but always in your heart.

When finished, you can say or sing:

אוֹר זָרֻעַ לַצַּדִּיק וּלְיִשְׁרֵי לֵב שִׂמְחָה, שִׂמְחוּ צַדִּיקִים בַּיהוה וְהוֹדוּ לְזֵכֶר קָדְשׁוֹ

Or zarua la’tzadik, u’li’yishrei lev simkhah, simkhu tzadikim b’Adonai, v’hodu le’zekher kodsho

Light is sown for the righteous, joy for the upright. O you righteous, rejoice in God and acclaim God’s holy name!

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