Do You Know How to Stop?
by Rabbi Aron Moss
When lighting Shabbos candles, why do we wave our hands three times inwards before making the blessing? I saw my mother and grandmother do it, but no one can explain it to me, other than saying we are bringing in the Shabbos energy???
Resting takes a lot of work. Many people are great at achieving, but find it hard to stop achieving. They know how to do, but don't know how to just be. Shabbos is the day of rest, and to do it right you need to know what resting means.
Resting is not doing nothing. If it was, there would be no reason to feel rejuvenated after a rest. Not doing may not drain us, but why should it replenish us?
True rest is the ingathering of our soul energies. After expending our powers outward, we draw our energies back inward. During the work week we are pulled in all directions, and our frantic activities drain our soul. The creativity and inventiveness that lies within has been exhausted, and so we need to draw our energy back to its source to be replenished and renewed.
This is symbolized by the waving motion inward at candle lighting. We are beckoning our soul energy to come back to its source. For six days we were outward beings, investing ourselves in the world around us. On Shabbos we pull back, holding our energy in to regain focus and balance.
The idea behind waving the hands three times is that our retreat from the externalities of life happens on three levels: action, speech and thought.
One level of Shabbos is the level of action, where we refrain from doing actual work. But a deeper level is the level of speech, when we refrain from even talking about work related matters. We don't make deals and we don't plan for the week ahead. Today we are holding our soul energy close, only using it for enhancing our inner life - our connections with family, friends, community and G-d.
And then there is an even deeper level of Shabbos, the level of thought. When we reach this level, we feel as if our weekday life doesn't exist, all our work is done, and we don't have a worry in the world.
So when you wave your hands, have in mind that you are about to enter a realm of inner rest, retreating from the superficial world and all its demands, on three levels: You will stop working. You won't even talk about work. And you will even stop worrying about it.
When all those external layers are gone, what is left? Just you, your soul, and the relationships that really matter.