Looking for a way to bring Mivtza Neshek to younger girls, a team from Lubavitch Youth Organization hit on the idea of creating princess themed mivtzoim kits, and it took off immediately.
By Rochel Horowitz – Chabad.org
Squeals of joy and excitement could be heard on a late Friday afternoon at the Niedober home in Stamford, Conn., as Jessica Niedober’s two daughters, Ariella and Kayla, eagerly unwrapped their new Shabbat candle-lighting kits. Every Friday evening before sundown, Jessica had been lighting the Shabbat candles as her ancestors had done for thousands of years, but this week her young daughters, ages 4 and 7, would be joining her and lighting Shabbat candles of their own.
Little did the Niedober girls know it, but they were the latest participants in a nearly 50-year-old campaign known as Mivtza Neshek (Shabbat Candle Lighting Campaign), which has reached and inspired millions of Jewish women and girls around the world to light Shabbat candles.
On Sept. 11, 1974, a week before Rosh Hashanah, the Rebbe was giving a special blessing to a gathering of Chabad-Lubavitch women. “The Rebbe then started to speak about the fact that we live in a time that is very dark spiritually, and we have to bring more spiritual light into the world,” wrote Esther Sternberg, longtime director of the Shabbat Candle Lighting Campaign, a division of the Lubavitch Women’s Organization, who was present at the gathering. “The Rebbe said he wanted to introduce a campaign that would reach every Jewish woman and girl, as young as 3 years old, and inspire them to light Shabbat candles.
“And the Rebbe went on to say that now many women don’t do it nowadays either because they were never taught or because they came to believe that in America it’s not applicable,” she continued. “He told us that we should go out and find these women, who either never learned to do it or who just stopped doing it, and make sure that they light Shabbat candles to bring more spiritual light into the world.”
Ever since then, Jewish women and girls the world over have encouraged millions of their peers to light by distributing candles and instructions for the proper blessings on street corners, shopping centers, and in public and private gatherings.
A recent initiative by the Lubavitch Youth Organization that inspired the Niedober girls’ lighting started somewhat organically. As program organizer Fraida Warmflash explained: “I would go on weekly Friday excursions with a friend of mine to share the beauty of lighting Shabbat candles with other Jewish women. That friend brought her friends, and soon a bunch of girls joined.”
‘You Make the World Brighter’
A few years after successfully organizing women around the world to distribute about 100,000 boxes provided by Rabbi Shlomo Friedman, administrator of the Lubavitch Youth Organization, Friedman decided that he wanted to provide something specifically for younger girls, in line with the Rebbe’s vision that every girl should light candles from the time they are able to understand the concept of Shabbat and say the blessing: “We wanted something that’s on their level, that speaks to them, and just looks so precious and cute,” said Warmflash.
With the help of designer Mushky Polak, they designed a princess-themed box that comes with a miniature illustrated children’s booklet. Vivid, youthful colors and the message, “You make the world brighter,” are displayed on the box.
Written by Dina Rosenfeld and illustrated by Bailey Elman, the book includes simple instructions and fits right inside the box, which also comes with a few tealights and sometimes even a bracelet or a little treat.
Eager about this new initiative, Warmflash noted that “our vision was to create something really beautiful. We wanted it to externally reflect the internal beauty of the mitzvah. When a child brings this home and they’re so excited about it, the whole home can be transformed.”
She related that her husband brought one of the boxes to his eye doctor, who later told him that his wife and daughters lit the candles, and afterward, the whole family sat down to a Shabbat dinner. “Young girls have passion and clarity and truth; they literally can change the world,” said Warmflash. “We want them to know that.”
The Shabbat candle lighting guides for adults are available in four languages: Hebrew, Russian, French and German. Kits can be viewed and ordered here.
“My children loved the candle set and the book that it came with,” says Jessica Niedober. An elementary-school teacher, she appreciated the simple font and the relatable illustrations through the lens of a young girl who lights Shabbat candles for the first time. “The packaging was adorable, and we hope to reread the booklet,” she said.
Her older daughter, Ariella, says: “I loved the book that came with the little candle set because it was pretty. I liked lighting the candles.” And Kayla chimed in: “I liked the candles and the book, which my mommy read to me. I loved it so much!”
Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org
Kits can be purchased at https://www.themivtzoimshop.com/the-princess-collection