Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.—EXODUS 20:8 [JPS]
“I must light the Shabbat candles,” Mom said on the phone.
“But it’s Tuesday,” I reminded her. This was not the first time Mom had called to announce it was Shabbat when it clearly wasn’t. I knew it was Alzheimer’s destroying her sense of time. There was anxiety in her voice as if she was rushing to meet some deadline.
I understood that anxiety. Each Friday night, an hour before the sun set, I lit candles for Shabbat, my hands encircling the flames before uttering the blessing. The way Mom taught me. The next 25 hours there would be no phones, no computer. Anything I hadn’t managed to accomplish before I lit those candles—ironing my husband’s shirt, making food—would have to wait. Then the tranquility of Shabbat would descend.
Shabbat was obviously still very important to Mom. She reacted with joy to the rituals she’d been part of for generations. Did it matter if she lit candles during the week instead of on Friday nights? I realized that as long as my dad or I were with her, lighting those candles and ushering in a sense of calm were more important than what day she lit them.
“I’ll be over in a few minutes and we can light them together,” I told her.