Shabbat on Vacation

By Anita Diamant 

When Jim and I married, one of the gifts we received was a set of traveling Shabbat candlesticks. It's nothing fancy – a three-inch tin box, hinged to open and reveal two washer-like rings to hold Sabbath candles.

Nonetheless, it was the only wedding present we brought to our honeymoon cottage on Martha's Vineyard, and ever since that little box has accompanied us on vacations. We've unpacked it in various Cape Cod rentals, and in the homes of non-Jewish friends, where we have found ourselves on sundry Friday nights over the years.

Making Shabbos (the Sabbath) on the road creates such potent, sweet memories. I have friends, far more rugged than I, who lit candles outside their tent at 14,000 feet, high in the Rockies. When I heard them tell that story, I could smell the pines.

Jim, Emilia and I once opened our little tin box and lit candles on the bureau of a musty motel room in Quebec City, where, I felt quite certain, no one had ever "benched licht" (blessed candles) before.
We're headed back to the Vineyard for a week's rest and relaxation this summer, and I'll pack the traveling candlesticks again. But in fact, we may not use it. We may opt instead for another Shabbat (Sabbath) vacation tradition.

Four years ago, I was trying to think of a way to engage my then-nine-year-old daughter in getting ready for Shabbat, and had what I can only describe as a "Martha Stewart moment." So Emilia and I set out in search of Shabbat rocks to use as candle holders. What I had in mind was a pair of interesting stones, flat enough on the bottom to sit without wobbling on a tabletop, flat enough on top to hold one candle.

It wasn't hard to find a perfect pair. They were egg-like, pink and gold-toned, shaped to serve our purpose. We set them out on a breakfront in the dining room and, while dinner cooked, added a pile of shells and sea glass, a bouquet of wildflowers.

Lighting the candles, the mirror behind our vacation Shabbat altar reflected the flames, the stones, the shells, the daisies, and our faces, which were browner and pinker and happier than usual. We took pictures.

I thought about bringing those rocks home, but decided to put them back where we found them. They were, after all, just on loan. It happens that our Vineyard rental this year runs Friday to Friday, so our first meal on the island will be a Shabbat dinner. I'll bring challah and the tin box with the candlesticks, which we'll use if it's raining. If not, I'm going to look for Shabbat stones. Or maybe this year, seashells.
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For additional reading

·     Holidays: Shabbat

·     Holidays: Shabbat: Havdalah

·     Shabbat as Social Reform'