More than a year ago, Thalia Hakin wrote an essay for a contest on the importance of lighting the Shabbat candles.
“When you light up a candle you light up your neshama [soul]. And you light up the world. And when you light up the world you make it a better place. Like for you and me and everybody. Now the world is dark but soon to be bright for us. And im yirtze Hashem [G‑d willing] Moshiach will come.”
Now, the organizers of upcoming book for women and girls, One More Light, are hoping that Thalia’s own words will be a source of comfort and honor the memory of the 10-year-old girl who was killed in January when a car plowed into a crowd of pedestrians at an outdoor mall in Melbourne, Australia. Her mother and 9-year-old sister were injured in the attack, but are recovering.
Thalia was a student at Beth Rivkah Ladies College, a Chabad day school in Melbourne. Her essay was one of many that the school had submitted for consideration in the book.
It was only after her passing that the essay was discovered by Nechama Dina Laber, editor of One More Light and global director of Jewish Girls Unite, which aims to connect Jewish girls around the world though online meetings and empower them to grow as leaders. Laber and her husband, Rabbi Avraham Laber, also serve as co-directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Southern Rensselaer County in Troy, N.Y.
“I was finalizing all the content for the book, and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss any submissions that came through as attached documents,” recalls Laber. “I was going through a couple hundred emails when I opened up Thalia’s essay. It had been sent to us by her principal, Robin Moskow, in September 2015 and somehow was waiting for just this moment to show up.
“I understood it was Thalia’s soul speaking to us and sending us words of strength in dark times,” she continues. “I feel blessed that I found it just when the world needed to hear her precious words.”
Laber believes that Thalia’s writing offers a positive lesson to all: “It’s important for other young girls to read her words and realize that any person, at any age, can truly make an impact. It’s also important for them to realize how powerful it is to share a hopeful message.”
Written a year ago, this essay will be part of a new edition on Shabbat candle-lighting.
The Campaign to Light Candles
More than 300 submissions from girls all over the world, ages 9 to 18, were considered for One More Light, which will contain 140 of those essays. The book includes a song written in Thalia’s memory (“I Need You”) and an illustration in her honor (“Conquering the World With Light”); it also features reflections by Jewish women leaders who work with Jewish Girls Unite.
It’s actually the third compilation of its kind.
The works came about as a result of a campaign launched in 1974 by the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—encouraging women and girls over the age of 3 to light Shabbat candles. The initiative was called “Neshek,” an acronym for the Hebrew words neiros Shabbat kodesh or “candles for holy Shabbat.”
To support the effort, in 1977 the Lubavitch Women’s Organization released “A Candle of My Own,” a book that included writings on Shabbat, and artwork and illustrations by Jewish artist Michoel Muchnik. A second version was released in the 1980s, with all new essays and with photographs of girls lighting candles before Shabbat.
The newest iteration, One More Light, will officially be released on March 1 as part of a global Jewish Girls Unite celebration of music and inspiration at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn, N.Y. This event will be live streamed; all Jewish women and girls are invited to join.
Explaining the timing of the new book, Susan Axelrod, JGU’s global strategy advisor and leadership coach, says: “There is a prevailing sentiment of anxiousness that crosses borders between countries, and barriers between people and groups. In this moment in time, we wanted to see, to love, to support and to lift up the Jewish girls who will become our Jewish mothers of the future and the mothers who are growing them.”
Whether women run a business or the home during the week (and oftentimes, both), Axelrod stresses that “taking the time to light Shabbat candles offers women a breath, a prayer and an action that is vitally needed today.”
To learn more about “One More Light,” click HERE.
The schoolgirl has touched the world with her prescient words and positive message. (Photo: Sheina Raskin)