My D’var Torah (words of Torah) from Friday night, January 22nd
So many of us have gone through or are currently going through extremely dark and trying times. Whether it be an illness, a death, a crumbling relationship, a financial crisis, whether it be overwhelming depression or anxiety, a powerful addiction, feeling lost, alone or hopeless – when our life shatters around us, the pain can be overwhelming.
In the section of Torah known as Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16) which was read in synagogues last week (the week of January 17th), we are reminded that the 10 plagues were not sent by God to convince Pharaoh to free the Israelites – rather they were sent to teach the Israelites the power of God. The terrible fear and darkness that filled Egypt with each plague was God’s way of teaching the Israelites faith. It was only after the Israelites had experienced the nightmare of plagues (granted, the Israelites were not the victims of the plagues) that they were able to turn to God and, consequently, find within themselves the strength and courage to leave the darkness (symbolized by Egypt) and begin the long journey towards the light (symbolized, of course, by Israel)
This idea that before we can experience true light we must experience true darkness is a theme that appears over and over again in Torah and Kabbalah. It is such an important message for those of us who have lived in darkness or are still living in it. After the darkness comes light. Beyond the darkness lie blessings. Our challenge and the purpose of life is to find the Divine strength that dwells within each of us – for this strength will enable us to travel to the great beyond.
Disclaimer: After sharing these words, I was approached by someone who asked me “how is the horrible illness of a child a blessing!?” I am so glad that he asked me this challenging questions because I might very well not have been clear enough and that is the joy of having this blog.
Let me say very clearly: I do not believe that any illness or terrible thing that happens to any of us is, itself, a blessing. There are times in our lives when everything shatters and we are surrounded by darkness. It is during these times, when we/if we somehow manage to find within us the divine strength to persevere, to crawl towards the light, to pick up the pieces, that we slowly begin to have faith in something much bigger than our own suffering. And it is when we grab on to this faith and allow it to lead us into the warm, radiant light that only comes after the darkest of darknesses that we understand the blessings of life.
So, to clarify: The moment life shatters, the reason it shatters, and the feelings of total despair that immediately follow the shattering – these are NOT blessings. They can, however, be the “birth pangs” of incredible blessings if we find within ourselves the Godly strength to wrestle with them, much like Jacob did with the angel in the middle of the night, until the dawn of a new day.
To my questioner I say thank you. And I hope others will join the discussion here on BlogShalom.
Blessings Lie Beyond The Darkness, Part 1
Blessings Lie Beyond The Darkness, Part 2
My personal thoughts:
There is hardly ever total darkness. There is hardly ever pure light. It is up to us the separate darkness from light because in being created in her image, we were given the power to create. The strength is finding that power.
People in dark places loose their ability to create, to see the light, as insignificant it may be. We always say “call me if you need me” but people in the dark will rarely do so. Therefore, to me, the most significant Jewish practice would be to look for those who are in dark, gather light and bring it to them. It may be a warm meal, it may be a smile or your company. However, one little ray of light may be all that a person needs. If they need a lot, we need to gather a lot of light and deliver it. Not wait for the person to ask, because they won’t.
You are so right Ally. That light that you talk about always being present – to me, that is the spark of God. It is always there – the question is, can we find it? So often, it takes the support of those around us to help us do just this.