The Power of Lighting Shabbat Candles
Two rabbinical students were sent under the direction of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, to the faraway Aleutian Islands, with the sole purpose of bringing the joy and light of Judaism to any Jews that lived there.
After a week of searching, they found not one Jew. Despondent, they made one last attempt at the local elementary school. They went to each classroom and asked if there were any Jewish children in the class, and each teacher told them that there were no Jewish children. They entered the very last classroom, and asked the teacher if there were any Jewish children there. She immediately answered no.
A girl in the back raised her hand. “Mommy, so we’re not the only Jews in the world?!” little Stacy exclaimed to her mother/teacher.
The embarrassed mother quietly and quickly told the rabbinical students that she’d talk to them after class.
The now-revealed mother and daughter sat with the two rabbinical students that afternoon. The mother confessed that she was not very comfortable with her Judaism, or expressing it with her daughter, as they were the only Jews on this island, and it seemed easier to just put it aside. They all talked for a while, the boys offering words of warm encouragement to explore their Jewish identity. The mother bought some Jewish books and Mezuzahs. She then asked the boys to offer some words of encouragement to her daughter, as they had to her.
We’re not the only Jews in the world?The rabbinical students left the little girl with this thought: “All around the world, women and girls bring in Shabbat by lighting candles on Friday afternoon, eighteen minutes before sunset. But when they are lighting eighteen minutes before sunset, bringing in Shabbat in Australia, it is not yet Shabbat in Israel, until eight hours later, when the women there light the candles. And then seven hours later, New York lights and brings in Shabbat, and eventually California, and the entire world lights, and brings in Shabbat at different times.”
“The very last time zone is at the furthest point on earth, which is the Aleutian Islands. And the Aleutian Islands is the very last place in the world every Friday to have the opportunity to light Shabbat candles! You and your mother have this opportunity-to usher in the light of Shabbat for the entire Aleutian Islands.”
“You will also be the very last Jewish girl in the world each Friday, little Stacy, to usher in Shabbat with your Shabbat candles, completing this unifying circle.”
And with these words, the boys bid farewell to their new Jewish friends on the island.
Two young Chabadniks in New York asked a man if he was Jewish. He replied he was so they asked if he would lay tefillin. “No,” he replied, “you come find me in Alaska and THEN I’ll lay tefillin.”
The following summer the two bochurim were in Alaska driving from Fairbanks to Anchorage when they needed a restroom. The only restroom on the desolate highway was in a gas station/tavern/restaurant/convenience store all in one. When the two Chabadniks walked in the bartender looked up, threw up his hands, and said, “OK, you found me! I’ll lay tefillin.”
A very nice story. This reminded me of two interesting islands off the coast of the Aleutian Islands. While there are still inhabitants on the Aleutian Islands, there are none on Attu and Kiska since they are national wildlife reserves. One of them had many oil drums buried when the US forces occupied it. Recently most have been dug up. This was after Japan invaded the islands during the Second World War. In short, there is a lot of history to be learned there.
Thank you for sharing this story. I enjoyed it.
Very interesting. Thanks.