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Of Darkness and Light

01/19/2018 09:19:37 AM

Jan19

Rabbi Steven Suson

The first acts of God, as described in the opening verses of the Torah, were to create light and to separate the light from the darkness.  Each Saturday night, when darkness falls and Shabbat ebbs away, we light an havdallah candle and praise God for distinguishing between light and dark.

Even in the parlance of our times, when one reveals information or puts a matter into perspective, we say they “shed light” on it, in order that we can finally understand.  When we understand someone or something better, it is no longer shrouded in darkness, rather we become “enlightened.”

That is why we praise God each week for helping us to distinguish between light and dark, between good and evil, and between the holy and the profane.  Indeed, our tradition charges us with a responsibility to be “or lagoyim” a light unto the nations.  The example we set by living a life of Jewish values and sharing those values with the world is described as bringing light to otherwise dark places.

I am sad to say that there are too many dark places in the world today.  While we would like to believe that we live in an enlightened society and anti-semitism is a thing of the past, we are constantly reminded of the shadow of anti-semitism and hate continues to cast a wide net.

This Shabbat, we will read about the final three plagues that afflicted Egypt - locusts, darkness and death of the first born.  Only after the final plague does Pharaoh relent and set the oppressed Israelite people free.

It is no accident that the penultimate plague of darkness immediately precedes that of death.  When we are plagued with darkness, we cannot see one another.  Our Torah portion says “people could not see each other” (Ex. 10:23).  When people become engulfed in darkness and don’t recognize the other as a human being, created in the image of God. It is easy to dehumanize them and turn a blind eye to their subjugation, oppression and, ultimately, murder.  Hate flourishes in the darkness.

This Shabbat, we pray that the light of the sabbath candles shines upon the world.  May the Jewish people radiate Torah values and model empathy, respect and decency toward all human beings.  We pray for an end to the darkness that comes from intolerance and hate.  May the world soon be united in love, respect and light for all peoples.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Suson

Sat, March 23 2019 16 Adar II 5779