Shabbat and Shehechiyanu

Lynn Schlow opened our Friday evening PA-IPL Interfaith Convocation service with the Shabbat prayer, offering it in both Hebrew and English, and graciously explained the ritual.

On the Sabbath the celebrant (generally the woman of the house) lights at least two candles, representing the dual commandments to remember the sabbath and to keep it holy.  After lighting, she waves her hands over the candles, welcoming in the sabbath. Then she covers her eyes, focusing more fully on the blessing, and so that she may also postpone the enjoyment of the fruits of the blessing (seeing the light) until after the blessing is recited.

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam
asher kidishanu b’mitz’votav v’tzivanu
l’had’lik neir shel Shabbat. (Amein)
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe
Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us
to light the lights of Shabbat. (Amen)

She removes her hands from her eyes, and looks at the candles, completing the mitzvah of lighting the candles. You can hear the Hebrew words either sung or read here (unfortunately not in Lynn’s voice).

Later in the service Lynn shared her uncle’s love of the Shehechiyanu prayer, offered at any first (enjoying the first ripe blackberry of a summer, for example).  The Shehechiyanu is a prayer thanking God for sustaining our lives that we might enjoy each of God’s blessings, and can be heard here.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha-Olam 
Shehehchiyahnu vekiyamanu vehegianu lazman ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, 
Who has kept us alive, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.

What a beautiful and appropriate way to begin our first meeting of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light.  May we respond to the twin blessings of Earth and atmosphere by caring for them, that they may sustain others in the way they have sustained us.