“Let there be light, and there was light…and the light was good” (Genesis 1:3-4). If the source of this goodness is not the Sun, which is not created until the fourth day of creation, what is its source and purpose? This light symbolizes hope, joy, and connection. We experience it in the form in the soft glow of the Shabbat candles, and in the flickering light of the memorial candle, in the twinkling light of birthday candles, in the night-light lit to scare away what frightens us. These are all illuminations of love.
Some people actually glow. We see it; we feel it. And, for some inexplicable reason, it touches us and makes us happy. Does the source of this glow differ from person to person, circumstance to circumstance? Actually, all this glowing emanates from loving and being loved. Could there be a better reason to glow?
Judaism offers some unexpected paths toward love – prayer and Torah. Setting aside a discussion of what constitutes prayer, the main idea is that prayer opens our hearts and increases our capacity to love of self and love for others. Torah, in all of its forms, represents an enlightened understanding of the human condition. It illumines a path toward self-understanding and the discovery that each of us is a precious part of a greater whole. This gives our lives meaning and purpose, which increases our joy and desire to connect to others.
In this week’s parasha, Tetzveh, we encounter yet another form of light. “You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling light regularly” (Ex. 27:20). Actually, the Hebrew reads, “Ner Tamid” – a perpetually burning flame,” which represents the SOURCE OF LIGHT. This light continues to be rekindled today in the form of a “Ner Tamid,” which we call the “Eternal Light”. It hangs above the Ark in every synagogue to identify the synagogue as a miniature sanctuary. It no longer requires our daily attention, burning (mostly) without interruption on electricity generated from a number of different sources, or even oil. But what of the many who never or rarely enter a sanctuary to lay eyes on it? How will they know this LIGHT SOURCE is available to them? And what would prompt them to seek it out?
The Psalmist teaches that “By Your light do we see light” (Ps. 36:10). The flame of DIVINE LIGHT is continually available to every human being. We have only to open our hearts and draw it in through actions that create joy and connection. The light of LOVE is an ever-renewing SOURCE of Healing Energy. It enables us to rekindle the flames of others without diminishing our own light. This is how we add light and love to the world. And how we are replenished.
Begin tonight. Light the Shabbat candles then close your eyes and open your heart. Before reciting the blessing of gratitude for the sacred gift of Shabbat that graces us each week, use your hands to draw in beams of loving light. After reciting the blessing, turn toward your children or loved ones to bless them (or call or text them…). Allow yourself to feel the love flowing through your heart, soul and even fingers right into their souls. Bask in the light of this love. Experience the fullness of Shabbat Shalom.
Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi