D’var Torah: B’reshit – The Lessons of Light and Darkness
A new Jewish year and a new cycle of reading the Torah begins with Parshat B’reishit. Often I find that I look at Torah through the lens of my mood. Right now, I want to be hopeful and optimistic about life, our world, and yes, camp. In this vein, I was struck by these verses: “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.”
When studying Torah, it often is helpful to think about alternative ways that the narrative could go. This spurs us to appreciate and find deeper meaning in the way the Torah was written.
First, God could have created through action, but instead created through words. The power of words cannot be overemphasized. Words can create and destroy. The fact that God uses words to begin creating is a powerful lesson that we should be careful how we use our words because they have great impact.
Second, the world was dark and devoid of light. God decided to introduce light into the world. We, too, can choose to bring light into each other’s lives. Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the many dark things in our world. By shining our light in the world we can have tremendously positive impact.
Third, God appreciated God’s own creation. “God saw that the light was good.” Sometimes, we are so self-critical that we don’t appreciate our positive work; we should take a moment to recognize when we do good for others and the world. At other times, we don’t pause to evaluate what we do. God took a moment to see if the light worked the way God intended. Once God saw that it was good, God was able to move to the next step.
Finally, “God separated the light from the darkness.” The root of this word is the same root found in “Havdalah,” which is the ceremony separating Shabbat from the other days. If we don’t separate light from darkness, it is impossible to distinguish them. It is even possible that the darkness would swallow the light. In our lives, we need to separate good things and bad things. There are many very tough things in our world right now. We need to push them aside to let the light in so we can have joy and happiness too.
As we embark on the new year, I hope we are able to create, appreciate and spread light through our words and actions. Let us be a source of light to each other and the world. Shabbat Shalom.