Transforming Darkness into Light

We are living at a time that is full of darkness. There are four different ways that we can transform the darkness into light: Physically, spiritually, through chesed/ lovingkindness and through Torah and Mitzvot.

1. Physical
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: When Moshe was born, the whole house filled with light. In the creation of the world (Breishit 1:4) "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 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.

2. Spiritual
While Moshe was tending his father in law.s sheep it says: (Shmot 3:1) "He went to the mountain of God, Chorev". According to Sforno, 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 God.s presence. According to Rabeinu Bachya, Moshe had to spiritually work up from the bottom. He couldn.t 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, many people 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 all over the world making Aliya. They have all found the spiritual light. They have all made decisions to continue the spiritual process of getting closer to God by living in Israel.

3. Chesed/ Loving Kindness
During the redemption process it was B.nai Yisrael who had the light while the Egyptians were in the dark. During the plague of Choshech, darkness, (Shmot 10:22-23) "There was thick darkness all over Egypt. 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.

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. In Israel today there is a training program for volunteer clowns to go to hospitals and put a smile on the faces of the children. Acts of chesed like brightening the day of patients in hospitals can push away some of the darkness.

4. Torah and Mitzvot
When Bnei Yisrael arrived at Mt. Sinai, there were lights-(Shmot 19:16, 18) the light of the lightning and the light of the fire that God descended in.

According to the Gemara in Brachot (7a): 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) "The skin of Moshe.s face became radiant". These were the spiritual lights of the Torah and of the Mitzvot. As it says in Mishlei 6:23: "A mitzvah is a flame and Torah is light". In Mishlei 20:27: we read: "The soul of man is the flame of God". When we study Torah and observe the mitzvoth, God.s Torah becomes a part of our souls.

On the words "You shall take pure olive oil to light the menorah", (Shmot 27:20) Or Hachaim says: This alludes to the Torah which can be compared to oil, just as oil lights up the world, so does the Torah.

Torah study and observance of Mitzvot 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 Shabbat and Chanukah 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.

May God give us the wisdom to transform the darkness into light.