Let There Be Light
Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8 )
The holidays are behind us and we're heading back into our regular schedule, if we can even call it that this year. For some of us it might be heading back into a harsh reality and a time of uncertainty. Just the thought of "where we are heading this year" may cause pangs of anxiety.
What will this year look like for the Jewish people? There is a rise in antisemitism across the world, an unclear political climate, all in the shadow of corona. What are we supposed to do? How will we make it through the winter?
I believe Jewish wisdom deals with this exact question in the opening versus of the Torah. In the beginning, God creates heaven and earth, “And the earth was void and chaos (Tohu VaVohu), and darkness was over the surface of the deep (Vechoshech Al Pnei Tehom)” 1
The Sages teach us 2 that this verse refers to the dark times throughout Jewish history. The "void," "chaos," "darkness," and "deep" hint at the suffering of the four exiles that the people of Israel will endure. The verse is explained as saying that darkness, difficulty, challenges all have their root in creation and that they are an integral part of the process of this world.
The secret to overcoming these challenges lies within the next verse, “And God said, let there be light, and there was light.” 3 The Torah is not a history book, nor a scientific manual, rather it is an eternal guidebook for life. The first Heavenly command in creation, “let there be light” is an eternal command, it is a mission for us, it is as if God is saying you be a light in my world, a light in the face of darkness.
Light is intangible, one cannot hold it, but it is everything. With it we can experience everything we have to its fullest, and without it, we are lacking everything. Wisdom, kindness, values and spirituality are like light to the world. They too are intangible, but a world void of these essential pillars is sorely lacking.
We are charged with a mission, a command, “let there be light”. In times that are particularly challenging for society at large, when we seem to be experiencing a state of chaos and darkness, then we must look deep inside ourselves and find the energy and strength to bring light unto the world.
This is the time to do more acts of kindness and light up someone’s day. The time to bring more light onto the world through the values and spirituality of the Torah, as Proverbs says “A mitzvah is a candle and Torah is Light” 4. As well as bring light through rebuilding Jerusalem, physically and spiritually, as it says “Jerusalem is the light of the world” 5
This is the eternal mission of the Jewish people. The more we light up ourselves, our communities, and the world with values and spirituality, the more we are sure to see a brighter future.
- Bereishit 1,2
- Bereishit Rabba 2:4
- Bereishit 1,3
- Mishlei 6,23
- Bereishit Rabba 59:5