Matthew W. Schmeer >


Saying Shabbos

In an April Friday's dimming light
I sit in the home office
of the woman I work for
and scribble notes in my log book
about the student I tutored and her struggles
with commas and dependent clauses.
Two-year-old Max escapes his father's grasp
and slips into the room,
his thick fingers clutching
a picture book I know too well
from reading to my own daughters.
I swing Max onto my lap
and begin to read when Jackie
calls him to "come and light the candle."
I go back to work.
As I try to find a nice word for average,
from the kitchen I hear Jackie's voice
begin to sing and then she's joined
by her husband and Max.
Rising and falling in unity,
their words foreign,
I stop writing and listen—

Baruch atah adonai,
Eloheinu, melech ha olam,
asher kid shanu b'mitzvota,
vitzivanu, lehadlik neir, shel Shabbat.*

Somehow I know this song in my bones.
I close my notebook, cap my pen,
and before Henryk's voice
begins the kiddush
and the challa is uncovered,
I slip out the door.
Later, I will search the Web
and find the prayer
in its rough translation,
the ritual explained in minute detail—
but for now I wonder
at how blessed I am
to be given the light
to find my way home.



*Blessed are you, oh God, king of the universe, who blesses us with the commandment to kindle the lights of Shabbat.