The Silver Soldiers This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I sat in awe as my grandmother (babushka) lit the Shabbat candles. It was a very special Friday night – my grandfather’s birthday and Shabbat (the day of rest). My whole family was over, including my mom, dad, sister and brother, and aunt and uncle. The flickering flames of the Shabbat candles were marvelous, but what really got my attention was the candlesticks holding them. Even though they were dented and tarnished, they looked beautiful to me. They were strong and enduring silver soldiers. When my babushka finished saying the prayer and everyone started digging into the gefilte fish, I traced the year that was carved into the candlesticks with my finger – 1899.


“Yes, my love?” my grandma asked as she poured wine into my uncle’s cup.

“Can you tell us the story about our Shabbat candlesticks?” I requested.

“Aw, you love them so much? My dear, anything for you,” Babushka replied as she reached for the salad. She accidentally knocked over my uncle’s wine. After a couple of “oy vehs” and some paper towels, my grandmother was finally ready to begin.

“A long, long time ago, your great, great babushka Chifra needed to buy a present for her daughter who was getting married. She thought hard and long about this gift because she wanted it to be extra special. Since Chifra was poor, and her husband, Joseph, was a farmer, the family barely had enough money to feed themselves. But, Chifra was saving money – as much as she could every day – for this special event.

“Finally, she set out for the market.” My grandmother paused for a moment and looked at her audience. “There was beautiful jewelry, dazzling kitchenware, and gorgeous clothing. But Chifra said no to all of these things and bought instead three tall silver candlesticks. Chifra’s reason was that she wanted her daughter never to forget Shabbat and the importance of the day of rest. Her daughter, Chaya, later said they were the best gift she had ever received.” No one made a sound. We all listened to our babushka. Right now, that was all that mattered.

My grandma continued, “Later that day, when Joseph finished his farm work, Chifra asked him to carve the year in the candlesticks. Little did she know they would be passed down for many, many generations. They have been through a lot – including the horrible World War II, when we had to run away from the Nazis. We could only bring a few things with us. These candlesticks traveled through Israel, Germany, Poland, and across the Atlantic Ocean. And, to this day, we still use them. They will be passed down to your mother, and then to you, and then to your children and grandchildren. The important thing to remember is that Shabbat has traveled with us for hundreds of years, and our Jewish roots will be in our hearts and minds forever.” Everyone clapped and cheered for Babushka. Then, we clinked glasses.

I continued to stare at the candlesticks standing so bravely at the center of the table. They held their waxy swords high. Time can wear away the armor of a soldier, but it can never erode his heart. I smiled to myself and thought, These soldiers are always going to guard me, no matter where they are.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Laughternchoclate said...
Mar. 6, 2010 at 8:32 am
Wow, your family sounds alot like mine. My Gramma made it through World War II and she tells me stories of her Papa and all her brothers and sisters. When I see them for Hanukkah, we all laugh and eat and it feels great. I loved this!!
kate said...
Oct. 29, 2008 at 4:03 pm
i read this long time ago! it's a beautiful piece of work ! keep it up!
smplysavge said...
Sept. 4, 2008 at 2:53 am
I would not have believed a teenager wrote this if it weren't for the name of the site. Thank you for writing so eloquently. You really used words beautifully, developing the sense of the evening and the family gathering. That is especially important to the tale because soon we will see how those candlesticks represent a part of your past, present and future families. The holders are like soldiers which embody and protect your heritage no matter what trials or travels your family goes through. G... (more »)
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