A few months ago, back when the weather was still decent and people were walking around, an acquaintance of mine who lives nearby was out taking a Shabbos walk with some of her children. I happened to be outside my house at the time and we were making pleasant small talk, and she mentioned to me that she had started participating in an initiative to try to start lighting Shabbos candles ten minutes early.
She admitted that many weeks she didn’t quite meet that goal, but she found it a worthwhile endeavor all the same. And she said she’d pass along the email information to me, if I wanted to try it myself.
I was totally intrigued. But I was also skeptical. Lighting ten minutes early? How was that going to work?
I’ve been working on creating a more calm(ish) erev Shabbos experience over the years, doing things like clearing off the Shabbos table (a/k/a the place where everything gets dumped during the week/craft station/lego building center) on Thursday, making as much food as possible Thursday night, and so on. Even with that, Fridays are usually busy from the time I wake up until the time I light my candles.
I usually light them in a pretty timely manner, I don’t cut it too close to the eighteen minutes, but ten minutes early seemed like a daunting goal.
But I do love a challenge, so I figured why not at least try it? I emailed Dini Harris (that’s who runs it) and got signed up. Every week, more or less, she sends out an email, sometimes with tips, sometimes with feedback from other participants, sometimes with divrei Torah, and every week there’s a raffle, which is always fun.
I started back in November (I think? Maybe?) and I have to admit that it has made a very noticeable and positive difference in my erev Shabbos experience!
Even though most weeks I don’t manage to light the full ten minutes early, I do find myself bringing in Shabbos at least a little earlier, and that feeling is incredible.
And instead of it making the day more hectic and more pressurized, I find I’ve actually been calmer. I’m more focused on Shabbos prep earlier in the week, and I appreciate the weekly emails (even though I generally don’t love extra emails in my inbox!)
I even won the raffle one week! And I never win anything. Usually.
One thing I especially appreciate about lighting early is that I feel like I have “extra” time to daven. Yes, it is often too hectic to really focus on davening (and yes I sometimes am davening by the candles while holding my toddler), but on the nights when I’ve lit early and the children are miraculously behaving, I’ve taken that time to really pray. For the people who need a refuah. For the success of my children. Of my family. Of my loved ones. Of the whole Jewish people.
It’s never something I thought I would be able to manage, and now it’s something that I treasure. Here’s to trying new things!
If any of you want to try it out, let me know and I’m happy to pass along the email address.