Sharona Margolin Halickman
Transforming Darkness Into Light
A group of people approached a Rabbi and asked him how they could
drive out darkness and evil from the world. He suggested that they
take brooms into a nearby cellar and sweep away the darkness. When
that didnt work, they returned to the Rabbi for another suggestion.
This time he told them to take sticks and beat at the darkness to
drive out evil. This too did not work. Then the Rabbi suggested
something much simpler. To overwhelm the challenge of darkness,
we need only to light a candle. They took his advice, descended
to the cellar, lit candles and the darkness vanished.
We are living at a time that is full of darkness. This morning I
would like to suggest four different ways that we can transform
the darkness into light: Physically, spiritually, through
chesed/ lovingkindness and through Torah and Mitzvot.
1.The first level where we can transform some of the darkness into light is on the physical level.
The book of Shmot opens with darkness. The Egyptians are treating Bnei Yisrael harshly
and Pharaoh decrees that the baby boys must be killed.
Amid this darkness, Bnei Yisrael make up their minds to physically continue on,
they continue to have children and look towards a brighter future. Yocheved conceives
and gives birth to Moshe. (Shmot 2:2)
VaTahar vateled ben, vatera oto ki tov hu.
When she saw him, she saw that he was good.
The Gemara in Sotah (12a) explains: Bshaah shenolad Moshe,
nitmale habayit kulo or.
When Moshe was born, the whole house filled with light.
Ktiv Hacha: Vatera oto ki tov hu,
Here it says that Yocheved saw him and he was good
Vichtiv hatam: vayare elokim et Haor ki tov
In the creation of the world (Breishit 1:4) it says God saw the light and it was good.
Since the words ki tov were used in both instances, we can infer that ki tov refers to light.
The Midrash in Breishit Raba teaches us that once the sun and the moon were created, the light from the first day of creation was no longer needed. It was therefore
Genuza LaTzadikim LaAtid Lavo
The light was hidden away for the righteous people of the future. This was the light that shined upon Moshe during the first three months of his life.
Just as in the creation story God separated the light from the darkness, we too must try to bring out the light from the darkness and consummate the work of creation.
Just a year ago darkness hit our community. Ariel Jacobs, 29, who studied in our Jewish Youth Encounter Program when he was a child and whose parents still live in Riverdale, perished in the attack on the World Trade Center. Just a few days later, his wife gave birth to a baby. The baby brought light and consolation to this grieving family. When I met Ariels mother, she told me that they are physically trying to move on with their lives and that the baby has been a tremendous help for them.
2.The second level where we can transform some of the darkness into light is on the spiritual level:
In todays Parsha, we see another example of light which ultimately helped push away the darkness and suffering. While Moshe was tending his father in laws sheep it says: (Shmot 3:1) Vayavo el har haelokim choreva. He went to the mountain of God, Chorev. According to Sforno, Hu livado,
Moshe went himself
to be alone and to pray,
Moshe was looking for spirituality. It was at that point that he saw the burning bush. At first he tried looking at the bush but then he saw that he had to turn away. The light was too strong. Moshe found what he was looking for, he found Gods presence. According to Rabeinu Bachya, Moshe had to spiritually work up from the bottom. He couldnt see God at this point. Just as the sun rises slowly so that we can get used to the light so too did Moshe work up to a higher level of prophecy. The light was a precursor for the redemption which was to follow. Moshe found the spiritual light.
Even amid all of the darkness that is taking place in Israel today, we still have so many who are spiritually striving to get closer to God and to the land of Israel. There are still record numbers of Yeshiva students studying in Israel after High school, foreign students joining the army and Jews from the United States who are making Aliya. We should be proud that many students from our shul have followed these paths and that five families from our shul, newborns and senior citizens alike, who made Aliya this past summer with Nefesh BNefesh. They have all found the spiritual light. They have all made decisions, even in these difficult times, to continue the process of getting closer to God by living in Israel.
3. The third level where we can try to transform some of the darkness into light is the level of chesed, lovingkindness
During the redemption process it was Bnai Yisrael who had the light while the Egyptians were in the dark. During the plague of Choshech, darkness, (Shmot 10:22) Vayehi Choshech afeila bichol eretz mitzrayim,
There was thick darkness all over Egypt.
(Shmot10:23) Ulichol Bnai Yisrael haya or
For all of Bnai Yisrael, there was light.
When Bnai Yisrael left Egypt, a pillar of fire led their way while the Egyptians who pursued them were left in the dark.
It says in the Book of Michah (7:8): Al tismachi oyvai lee, ki nafalti, kamti, ki eshev bachoshech, Hashem or li
Do not rejoice against me, O my enemy. When I fall, I shall arise. When I sit in darkness, God shall be a light to me. According to Rabbi Simcha Ginsburgh, The fall can be compared to the Holocaust, the rising can be compared to the establishment of the State of Israel. The darkness and be compared with the darkness which is being felt in Israel right now. We must not only pray to God, but work with God to transform some of the darkness into light.
As it says in Yishayahu 9:1: HaAm Haholchim bachoshech ra-oo or gadol, yoshvei baeretz tzalmavet or nogah aleyhem.
The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light, they who have dwelled in the shadow of death, upon them has the light shone.
There is a story about Eliyahu HaNavi who saw two jesters and said that they will have a place in the world to come because they make people laugh. Today so many in Israel have lost hope. I just read that on Rebetzin Jungreis last trip to Israel she and her group delivered hot pizzas and books to soldiers who were guarding the path from Kever Rachel to Chevron. An act of chesed, lovingkindness like brightening the day for our chayalim can push away some of the darkness.
4. The fourth level where we can transform darkness into light is the level of Torah and Mitzvot
When Bnei Yisrael arrived at Mt. Sinai, there were lights-(Shmot 19:16, 18) the light of the brakim, the lightning and the light of the fire that God descended in, yarad alav hashem baish.
According to the Gemara in Brachot(7a), Bschar vayaster Moshe panav, zacha lklaster panim,
Moshe was rewarded with light when he received the Torah, the highpoint in his spiritual ascension because he hid his face and did not look at the burning bush on the day that God initiated him into prophecy.
When Moshe descended the mountain with the Ten Commandments, the pasuk says,(Shmot 34:29) ki karan or panav,
The skin of Moshes face became radiant.
These were the spiritual lights of the Torah and of the Mitzvot. As it says in Mishlei 6:23: Ki ner mitzvah veTorah or,
a mitzvah is a flame and Torah is light. In Mishlei 20:27: we read: Ner Hashem Nishmat Adam, The soul of man is the flame of God.
When we study Torah and observe the mitzvoth, Gods Torah becomes a part of our souls.
On the words vayikchu alecha shemen zayit zach, You shall take pure olive oil to light the menorah, (Shmot 27:20) Or Hachaim says:
Yirmoz el Hatorah sheneemshela lashemen,
this alludes to the Torah which can be compared to oil,
Mah shemen meir laolam, kach hatorah,
just as oil lights up the world, so does the Torah.
During these times we should delve into Torah study and observance of Mitzvot which can help to brighten up the world. A person who observes the mitzvoth spiritually becomes a lamp of God.
When I encounter families who are interested in Judaism but are not yet fully observant, I often hear that the mitzvoth that they are already committed to performing are lighting Chanukah candles and lighting Shabbat candles. These two mitzvoth physically as well as spiritually dispel the darkness surrounding us. Maybe that is why the mitzvoth of lighting candles are often the first steps toward greater observance.
We have seen the importance of making a conscious effort to bring more light into the world and dispel the darkness through our physical and spiritual endeavors as well as through our acts of chesed, loving kindness and our observance of Torah and Mitzvot.
May God give us the wisdom to make light out of darkness during these difficult times.