On Sunday morning, December 4, Mrs. Dina Schoonmaker, teacher, lecturer, and relationship counselor at Michlalah Jerusalem, shared a live shiur at Congregation Nachlas Yitzchok.
She began by sharing the halachah that if a poor person only has enough money for Chanukah candles or Shabbos candles, then Shabbos candles take precedence. The concept in halachah is that the more frequent mitzvah takes priority over one that is not so frequent. Another example of this is if there is only enough time to daven one Sh’moneh Esrei, and you need to daven Minchah and Musaf, then Minchah would take priority over Musaf.
She then spoke about why neiros Shabbos are associated with shalom bayis. In the time of the Gemara, there was no electricity, so the only source of light was candles. You need light to function in your house and to have harmony. In a blackout, couches become stumbling blocks. Something you enjoy normally is transformed into a stumbling block when there is no light.
Today, a rav taught that we have power shortage in the brain. You can have a black view of the world and of the people in your life, and they become stumbling blocks. Once a week, we bring light into our homes. When we light the Shabbos candles, it can be a time to ask ourselves if we have been in black places and need to focus differently. “Light changes our perspective. It can turn stumbling blocks into steppingstones.” She added that a good perspective means putting bitachon into our relationships.
Mrs. Schoonmaker quoted from T’hilim where it states that Hashem takes an individual and puts him into a house.” When I’m in a bad mood, I see a person in a negative way. When I light Shabbos candles, I say, “Hashem navigates all relationships.” So, He thought that this is good for me have this person here. I need to navigate and realize reasons that he is here and that he is supposed to be a steppingstone. We light candles once a week to have a good perspective. We turn to the light and say that this is a beloved person.
She then spoke about a concept in psychology called imagio, which posits that a person is self-consciously attracted to people who will help him unfreeze his frozen potential. A person is born with certain characteristics, and his or her upbringing taps certain potentials, and others are left in deep freeze. So, in relationships, we are attracted to the people who bring out more of us. I have a lot of potential. Hashem brings people into my life who will untap my frozen potential. We need effort, and heat has to be applied. Hashem wants us to be a bigger person. “Our mission in life is to become a bigger person.” She added that any frozen potential that your husband doesn’t bring out, your children will bring it out.
She taught that “we want to light up the world by having a beautiful perspective on all the people in our orbit.” We need to realize that it was Hashem’s hashgachah that put them into our life for a reason. The stumbling blocks become steppingstones. This is what we do when we light the Shabbos lights.
Chazal teach that the role of a woman is to shine light on her beloved one and see things in him that others don’t see. The role of a woman is to use her beautiful perspective to notice specific traits that her loved ones have that others don’t notice.
She taught that the biggest light you can bring to a man is to help him to feel that his potential is being used, and this is the purpose of a woman.
She then tied this to the light of Chanukah. The midah of hakaras ha’tov is connected to light. Rav Shlomo Wolbe taught that when a person is living in the world and doesn’t notice all the good around him, he is living in a dark and dreary world. When a person recognizes beauty and that there is so much that is good, then he lives in a bright, lit-up world. Our purpose is to light up the world from this perspective.
Rav Hutner taught that hakaras ha’tov is the midah that our whole religious life is based on.
By Susie Garber