mother arrived for dinner and offered to help set the table, she noticed the mismatched candlesticks and looked at me askance.
"Is your cleaning woman crazy," she asked, "or did she simply run out of time?"
cleaning woman was me," I retorted. "I may be crazy, but I have a plan."
"A plan to use different candlesticks?" she asked hopefully.
That night, with friends and family seated expectantly around my dining room table, I stood to say the barucha
over the candles, then paused before striking the match.
beautiful candlesticks belonged to Grandma Harriet," I said. "Can you believe how different they look? One was polished
this morning, the other left untouched. Now let me tell you why."
The contrast between them had made me think about the human soul, I explained. "Look how tarnished our
inner characters can become over the course of a single year. We always start off with the best of intentions. Then, gradually,
we go astray."
Personally, I admitted,
I had done more than my share of gossiping, griping and bickering. I had criticized my husband, snapped impatiently at the
kids, and failed to call a seriously ill friend often enough because hearing her pain made me too sad.
Yet however marred our integrity becomes, it is never too tainted to come
clean. "Maybe Rosh Hashanah, the new year, is like Gorham Silver Polish for the soul," I said. "We pray,
we reflect, we ask forgiveness from each other. And however cruelly or awfully we've behaved, we still get another chance
to let our better selves shine through."
there seemed to accept my idea. Even the grandpa, no longer a stranger, suggested I make the mismatched candlesticks an annual
ritual. "Next year, you should shine the other one," he said. "If you can still tell the difference between
And so I have. Every year,
I realize that the clutter has crept back once again, and the one candlestick that I polished is so tarnished again that I
can hardly tell which is which. Sadly, my soul has also lost some of its luster. My house may not be quite ready to receive
guests, but I'm all ready for Rosh Hashanah.