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Life

My candlesticks are beautiful, but can I get rid of them?

From its start in 1906, A Bintel Brief was a pillar of the Forward, helping generations of Jewish immigrants learn how to be American. Now our columnists are helping people navigate the complexities of being Jewish in 2020. Send questions to [email protected]

Dear Bintel,

I got a beautiful pair of candlesticks for my wedding seven years ago. I got these candlesticks from my friend’s parents who are incredibly nice and generous people. I have no Jewish family members myself as I converted, so I truly appreciated these candlesticks. Every time I look at them, I think of her parents. However, I am also divorced after a painful and abusive marriage and these candlesticks remind me of my wedding. I’m not sure what to do as these are my Shabbat candlesticks. I feel weird using them and don’t light them anymore. I feel bad giving them away (who would take them anyways?) and don’t have much storage space. I feel silly buying new candlesticks when I have perfectly good candlesticks as well. Can you give me any ideas?

Signed,
What To Do With the Light

Dear Light,

When I read your email, the first thing I thought about were the first set of tablets Moses brought down the mountain, and then shattered, and how these broken tablets were kept in the ark as the Jewish people traveled through the desert. These candlesticks, like the first set of tablets, were given in love, but their meaning broke down when faced with the dark underside of human actions.

You’ve traveled through a long desert, and it sounds like it is time for new candlesticks to bring light into your home every week. I think you need Shabbat candle sticks that you can light without feeling weird. If it’s financially feasible for you, it’s not silly at all to buy new candlesticks. The ones you have are not perfectly good — they’re complicated, both by love and by a lot of pain.

I think it might help to make buying new candlesticks something of a ritual. Maybe buy them on a significant date, or from a special place, and go with someone you care about who can help make it into a meaningful moment. Think about what it is about your new life that brings you joy, or a way in which you are proud of yourself for being where you are. There are all sorts of fun and beautiful and fabulously creative candlesticks, made from colorful blown glass or something very non-traditional, which might speak to you too.

If it feels right, you can also say a shehecheyanu, the blessing on new or noteworthy occasions, to mark this new purchase. And if your friend’s parents are as wonderful as they sound, they will absolutely understand, and be glad that these candlesticks served as a sign of their love for you for as long as they did.

If you don’t want to discard them all together, check in with your local synagogue to see if they want them, or might know a place to donate them. Otherwise, thank your candlesticks for their holy work so far, and then let them go without guilt.

Shira Telushkin lives in Brooklyn, where she writes on religion, fashion, and culture for a variety of publications. She is currently finishing a book on monastic intrigue in modern America. Got a question? Send it to [email protected]

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