Darkness. Water. Light.
The parallels between the openings of the first two books of Torah are just
too glaring to ignore.
Genesis – the first book of Torah – begins: G-d created heaven and earth,
and the earth was chaotic and void, with darkness on the face of existence.
But the Divine spirit hovered over the water's surface. G-d said, ‘let there
be light, and there was light.’”
Exodus – Torah’s second book – begins with the bitter enslavement of the
Jewish people who descended to Egypt. With unprecedented ferocity darkness engulfs
them. The Egyptians impose upon the Jews harsh labor and severe persecution
intended to crush their spirits and break their bodies.
Despite the continuing intensification of the darkness, to the point that
Pharaoh orders the massacre of all Jewish newborn males (“every boy who is
born must be cast into the Nile”), a Divine spirit is
born and hovers over the water: When Moses was born his mother “saw that he
was good” – the entire house filled with light (Sotah 12a. Rashi). After
hiding him for three months from the Egyptians “she took a papyrus box, coated
it with asphalt and pitch, placed the child in it and put it in the rushes
near the bank of the Nile.”
The little child of light lay snugly in a basket hovering over the dark waters
of the River Nile, idol of the Egyptians. Until Pharaoh’s daughter, of all
people, draws him out of the water – thus naming him Moses (Moshe), because
“I bore (mashe) him from the water.” This in turn set in motion all
the events that would lead the luminescent Moses to bring light to the Jews
in the Egyptian darkness, and ultimately redeem the people in full glory.
Both books of Genesis and Exodus describe the dark nature of existence and
the power we have to face our challenges.
Existence by its very nature is a dark place. We begin our lives – as the
Torah begins its first two books – experiencing the surface of existence,
with its inner nature personality shrouded within. Finding our mission and
direction in life does not come easily. Clarity must be earned. Everything
real and true must be discovered. Accessing the goodness of man and the beauty
of life requires sustained effort and commitment, without which human nature
gravitates easily back to self-interest and all its inevitable vices. Even
science today has come to the surprising recognition that “dark energy” and
“dark matter” is the stuff that makes up the overwhelming majority of our
universe (see It's
the Tzimtzum, Stupid).
But hovering above the dark waters is the spirit of G-d – the soul, crafted
in the Divine Image. Each of us carries within a Moses-in-microcosm – a force
of light floating above the waters. Waiting for us to set her free by fanning
the pilot flame of the soul (“G-d’s flame is the soul of man”), allowing it
to illuminate everything in its path.
The most powerful message you will ever hear and the greatest blessing you
can ever receive is not that you will be immune to the threatening shadows
of existence. Rather, that for every moment of gloom you carry within a more
powerful force of light. With every disappointment and loss you receive a
gift of radiance. Above every illness and tragedy hovers an indomitable spirit
that can and will prevail.
As we begin a new solar year, with all the uncertainties that come with the
future, we also begin a new book in the Torah, which offers us a wise and
timeless lesson: Above all the dark waters of life hovers the Divine spirit,
waiting. Waiting for us to ignite its flame and bring light into the world.
“Let there be light” is our mandate. The challenge presented to each on us
is this: Will you be part of the darkness or will you be committed to bring
light into the night?