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Of Darkness and Light

01/31/2020 02:33:06 PM

Jan31

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 a 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; 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 our passion for life 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 that anti-semitism and prejudice are things of the past, we are constantly reminded otherwise. So perilous is this issue of discrimination that the founding document of the United States of America addresses the issue head on.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Declaration of Independence)

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 as human beings created in the image of God. Our Torah portion says “people could not see each other” (Ex. 10:23). They were so blinded by their deep rooted hate, indoctrinated by family or society. When people become so engulfed in darkness and don’t recognize the other as human, it is easier to turn a blind eye to their oppression, subjugation, 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 people peoples.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Steven Suson 

Thu, October 1 2020 13 Tishrei 5781