Candle Lighting

Haggadah Section: Introduction

Traditionally in Judaism, women were not obligated to perform positive time-bound commandments (ones telling you to do a specific task at a specific time) like candle lighting. However, in early rabbinic times candle lighting -  hadlakat ha'ner -  became one of the three  mitzvot  that Jewish women were allowed to do, along with making ritualistic hallah (from dough which a tiny bit was set aside as sacrifice) and keeping  niddah  (a period of time between menstruation and cleansing in the mikvah when women can't fuck). When you take the first hebrew letters of each commandment, it spells  HaNaH, who was one of our biblical mothers. Some say women were commanded to take part in these  mitzvot  as a form of punishment for what Eve did and if they don't, they'll die during childbirth. In lighting these candles, let's instead celebrate the women and femmes who came before us who sought knowledge and power, even if it literally killed them.

Hannah Szenes was a young Nazi resistance fighter. The Nazis captured her and brought Hannah’s mother to her. They said that if Hannah didn’t reveal the names of the resistance movement, her mother would be killed. Hannah told her mother that she could not betray the resistance. Her mother replied that by not giving in to the oppressor, Hannah had proved her love. Hannah Szenes was captured, tortured, and put to death at the age of 20. She wrote this poem in prison in Budapest before her execution:

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.

Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.

Blessed is the heart with the strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake.

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.

May the light of the candles we kindle together tonight bring radiance to all who still live in darkness. May this season, marking the deliverance of our people from Pharaoh, rouse us against anyone who keeps others in servitude. In gratitude for the freedom we enjoy, may we strive to bring about our own liberation and the liberation of all people everywhere.

 Lighting these candles, we create the sacred space of the Festival of Freedom; we sanctify the coming-together of our community.

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