Meaningful Traditions or Outdated Definitions?
Isn’t she beautiful?
She has been hanging in my parents’ home for as long as I can recall — which, in my case, is nearly my entire life. She is my mother.
OK — that last part is not, to the best of my knowledge, true. But as a very young girl, with my earliest memories of MomGiraffe were of her lighting the Shabbos candles, the two images became conflated.
With one exception, a topic for another day, Shabbos candles were lit weekly in my childhood home. My mother had a beautiful candelabra while PepGiraffe and I shared a set of small, plain candle holders. Until both of us, in turn, reached the age of mitzvot whereupon we received a set of our own silver candlesticks.
And our brothers? They were there…in the background. One helped with the kiddush and the other with the Motzi. I doubt that there was any sort of agenda with regards to the gender roles; my sister and I were on the scene before the boys arrived. I do not remember ever desiring to help with the other rituals nor am I aware of any of my siblings expressing any problem with the established practice.
But now I am faced with a dilemma — what to do in my own home. When I bentch licht, the kids stand and chant the blessings alongside me. And they participate equally in the kiddush and the motzi. So what’s the dilemma? I want Poppyseed to use the same little brass-coloured candlestick that I did when I was a girl. I want to present her with her own set of silver candlesticks on the first Shabbat after her thirteenth birthday. I want them to represent the transition to a life of ritual responsibility. And I want her to feel that same exhilaration that I did.
Without making her brothers feel left out.
I am the first to assert that equal does not mean identical. Yet in a world where egalitarianism seems to be equated with sameness, I wonder if I would be doing a disservice to the boys by making such an obvious distinction between male and female…
Or am I just over thinking the whole darn thing?