In the Little Shtetl of Vaysechvoos: The Secret of the Shabbos Lights
Velvl Kazchkovsky lived on the outskirts of the little shtetl of Vaysechvoos with his wife, Gittl, and daughter Shandel. Unfortunately, Velvl was not blessed with any sons, yet he was content with the good and pious wife God had given him, not to mention an obedient daughter close to the marrying age.
Oh, I didn’t want to forget to mention his shviger, Bubbe Minde. When Yossel, Gittl’s father, passed on, Bubbe Minde moved into the Kazchkovsky home. She was a welcome addition with her bright smile and all-knowing eyes.
Of course, there were some problems. Come Shabbos, the three women of the house did not know what to do with regard to the lighting of the candles. Each wanted to delegate the honor to the other. Shandel thought that her mother should light the candles, her mother thought that her mother should light the candles, and Bubbe Minde thought that it would be good for a young girl like Shandel to learn to light the candles. So every Friday night, the three of them would deliberate until it was almost sundown and too late to light the candles.
Then, one Shabbos evening, Velvl Kazchkovsky came home early and overheard the conversation…
Gittl: My dear mother, you are the one who should surely have the honor of lighting the Shabbos lights. You brought me into this world and I, in turn, was able to bring Shandel into this world. And you were the first light, and therefore you should light the lights.”
Bubbe Minde: “My dear, wonderful, caring daughter, I appreciate your desire to afford me the honor of lighting the Shabbos lights But I think it is much better that the light of your life, Shandel, have the honor. After all, she’s close to the marrying age. Soon, she will have a home of her own, and she needs to learn the beauty of lighting the Shabbos lights herself.”
Shandel: “Bubbe, I appreciate your caring to see me learn how to be the woman of the house, but I will have many years to do that. Meanwhile, since this is an honor my mother has had for years and years in this home, it seems only right that she continues doing it.”
Velvl Kazchkovsky held his head as he listened to the three women in his life deliberate over this in such a way that would put the learned scholars of the town to shame. You would think they were debating some fine point of the law as they continued on and on speaking of the merits of the other doing this ceremony.
Finally, in despair, they all left the room, the candles still not lit. It was at that point that Velvl, unbeknownst to his family, walked in and said the blessing himself, as he lit the Shabbos candles. A short while later the women of the house returned and were amazed to see the candles burning, the room aglow with the light of Shabbos. And they took it as a miracle from God that He, Himself, would bring light to the Kazchkovsky home. Now, every Friday night, they leave the house at the same time, coming back to find the candles lit. And as the family eats their Shabbos meal, Velvl’s eyes twinkle a little, and his lips curl up. For only he and the Almighty know the secret of the Shabbos lights.
Director of Communications, Missionary
Susan Perlman is one of the co-founders of Jews for Jesus. Susan is the associate executive director of Jews for Jesus and also director of communications for the organization. She also serves as the editor in chief of ISSUES, their evangelistic publication for Jewish seekers. She left a career track in New York City to help launch Jews for Jesus in San Francisco in the early 1970s. See more here.