Light a candle. Maybe even two. On Friday afternoon a short while before sundown. This candle is called a “Sabbath candle” or a “Sabbath light”. It’s easy, quick and gives light. And it’s a Mitzvah also!
It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, single or married, living at home or on your own. The candle can be any size and color, although traditionally they are white. You can find them in your local supermarket as well as other places.
Why do I suggest this as a first step? Actually it wasn’t my own idea, and I used to counsel people with this question with other suggestions. Especially reading books about Judaism and attending local classes or events.
But one day a friend told me that the first thing he did in his path to exploring Judaism was to light a Sabbath candle, and it had a great impact on him. He did it one week, and then the next and then continued to explore at his pace and as his mind and soul guided him. Since then I have suggested it to many others and have been thanked afterwards for this simple but meaningful approach to a new outlook on life.
I don’t know why it seems to be a good place to start. Maybe because it’s easy. Maybe it reminds a person of the tradition of something he’s seen in other Jewish homes – or maybe even in his own as a child. Maybe there’s a mystical element of the special light that a person lights in honor of the Sabbath, just as it’s turning dark outside.
I personally think that logically it engenders the feeling of “holiness” that is an essential part of our existence. When a person lights a Sabbath candle he is making a statement: “A holy day is about to begin.” A day that is separate and different from the other days of the week. The first step is to do something that acknowledges holiness and being special – even the simple act of lighting a candle. This can be a springboard to do some serious thinking about the purpose of life and the significance of being a Jew. The next step is up to you.
Please feel free to write back and share your thoughts about this and I am happy to continue this dialogue. I hope you find it helpful.