Where are my Shabbat candlesticks?

By Debbi K. Levy

I had a vivid dream last night that keeps drawing me back in. Do you know what I mean if I tell you that even after awakening from the dream and beginning my day, I am still walking through its residue? When I am with the Kohenets, we frequently give deserving attention to our sleeping life and, like verses from Torah, do our best to help one another interpret powerful dreams. We say, “In my dream of your dream…” and then offer our own insight to help others untangle the threads of the subconscious and the dream state.

Here is my dream. Will you contemplate with me? I was searching for a certain set of Shabbat candlesticks. I was not panicked, just engrossed in looking about the house. While I was doing so, one of my sons and my maternal grandparents were coming in and out of the search. Someone asked me about additional cabinet spaces we hadn’t yet checked and I was explaining I don’t have a lot of bric-a-brac in storage, that I am, in fact, clutter-free. We kept at it. I noticed, even in my dream, that I wasn’t fretting or anxious, just trying to locate my cherished candlesticks in a methodical way that would elicit a successful find. My mom always taught me, from the time I was little, that if I was looking for something, I should tidy up my entire bedroom and the object would appear. I leaned into this very practice in my dream. My hands were busy straightening and family members were advising me during the process.

I never did locate the candlesticks and awoke with a mind still trying to remember when I used them to usher in Shabbat last. I was still not becoming frantic; the small set of travel candlesticks I keep at our Texas Coast house condo came to mind. Were these somehow the ones I was really searching for instead? The missing objects became a little more veiled, but Shabbat was drawing near in my dream. A feeling of turning things over and over again has lingered with me, the energy almost sticky. And as the day has worn on, what presents itself like a small pebble of grief has planted itself within me. I imagine if I could find my way to the roots of this question-mark dream I could release this weight.

I write down the fragments I can recall in my dream journal. I close my eyes and invite in the details, blurring just a bit now. I reflect upon all the candlesticks I’ve owned and used ritually. I call my son on the phone and all is well there. I cleanse a crystal from my sister that belonged to my maternal grandmother, who was a vivid part of my dream. I check in with my physical body and spend some of the day alone.

As the sun warms Dallas in the afternoon hours, the dream meaning washes over me in dread. The candlesticks are the Shabbats I enjoyed before Oct. 7. They are gone. I can’t find them or usher them back, even utilizing my mother’s advice of tidying my spaces. The peace that Shabbat brought, the sweet dough I braided, the Shabbat service that felt like a vacation, are all not captured the same way. I want to cry, scream; I even have thoughts of howling.

I am coming to the root of my grief, grateful for naming it with many words. Candles lit, kiddush sung, children blessed and the mundane task lists put away out of respect and honor for the Sabbath bride, but the grief for Israel, for her people, for MY people, is unending. As I write this, there is still no word about the release of the hostages. The days march forward, the news advises us about who has taken which side and politics and finger-pointing is everywhere. The agony of the injured, the mourning over those fallen, it pains me so deeply. All joyous moments, even the celebration of Purim, will be tempered with the war and all the collateral damage. The missing candlesticks are the missing Shabbats following Oct. 7. It’s clear as a bell. That’s why the feeling remains upon awakening.

I want so much to nourish the seed of hope within me. I desperately want to be an integral part of those Jewish people who lead others with the deepest faith in the Almighty. I seek to find many ways to ask for and contribute to the work of bringing about the gift of shalom we Jews fervently pray for. I want to converse with the Eternal like David; I want to create praise as sweet as the psalmists. I want to shout to the heavens from the depths of my belly how grateful I am for all creation. But today I am going to surrender to my sleeping life. The one that is crying out for Shabbats before the war. The one that gives in to the grief. The sleeping life that honors and magnifies the ache we are all moving through. I won’t stay in this place too long. Tomorrow is a new day and Judaism is a religion of great hope and faith. And there is much work to do and I will do it with eagerness and take out my Purim costume, grateful to be a Jew in all the seasons we are granted. Amen.

Kohenet Debbi K. Levy welcomes your feedback and discussion at debbiklevy@gmail.com.

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