Today’s Daily Prompt asks us to talk about our first encounter with Faith or religion. Mine is a little different. Here it is.
The flame flickers in the darkness and I hold my hand to it – one at first and then the other. Slowly, unconsciously, they usher the light inwards towards my body. A habit that is hard to break, even when I haven’t practised or said the prayers in years.
I cannot remember my first moment of faith or religion, but my childhood was filled with it. We weren’t particularly religious, but we were traditional in some ways. Friday nights, for example, were shabbat and they were meant to be spent with family. Though we did not keep the sabbath in some of the ways that it should be kept – not creating or destroying, and certainly not driving – we kept it in that fashion at least. We would drive through to Sea Point from the other side of Cape Town and we would sit around a round table with a lazy Susan in the middle. It was here that the family would congregate – my grandparents, parents, aunt and cousins all sitting together – sometimes peacefully, often not so much. And every dinner would begin with candles.
Baruch attah Hashem
Eloheinu melach ha’olam
Asher kidushanu barmitz’votav V’tzivanu
Le’hadlik neir shal shabbat. Amen.
The hands usher in the light and usher in the sabbath. The job of the women, not that it ever stopped me from joining in with the prayers that were not intended for me. By the age of ten I knew the kaddish by heart and would recite it whenever my grandfather would let me. That I put up my hand to say it at school once shocked the teachers more than anything else that I did. I thought he would have a heart attack.
I am not a religious person, and I haven’t had a family shabbat dinner in so long that it feels like a part of a distant past. Being half a country away from family will do that to a person. And yet, even now, when the lights go out and candles are being lit around me, I say a silent prayer. It may not usher in the sabbath, but it ushers in fond memories from my childhood and the traditions that cling to me even when I think that they have been forgotten.