Rabbi Ariel J Friedlander – 5 October 2018
The old year has ended, and the new year has begun. The week is ending, and Shabbat is on the horizon. When dusk falls, day will transition into night, and the Jewish calendar will move forward. This week, our Torah portion Bereishit recalls the creation of the earth and all that it contains. In the Talmud, the sages offer an addendum, listing 14 items that were created at the very last moment, “bein hashemashot” – during the twilight that preceded the first Shabbat. The list includes the well that provided water for the Israelites in the desert, the manna that fell from the sky to feed them on their journey; the mouth of the donkey that spoke to Balaam, and the rainbow. Each object listed may be considered extraordinary in comparison to the creations described in Genesis. Twilight was clearly a period of time with great potential.
Twilight is defined in a variety of ways. It is possibly day or possibly night. It could be a mixture of the two, or an overlap. It could be neither day nor night, but rather an entity of its own, without which day cannot transition into night. For our ancestors, it was clearly an interval of time between definitions, in which anything was possible. Twilight offered the possibility to bridge the gap between different entities, to facilitate change. It was a time of fluidity.
In this moment before we enter Shabbat, we have an awesome opportunity. As we let go of the day that is past, and before we anticipate what is to come, can we take the time to appreciate the twilight? What extraordinary creations may exist here? Leaving the fixed and formal ways of regarding the world to one side, looking at each other without prejudice, we might see each other in a new light. Is there water where once you saw only desert? Could there be wisdom from the mouth of an ass? Although the rain has fallen, can you see the rainbow?
This is the hour to look from a different perspective, to listen on another frequency, to read between the lines. In such a time and space we are able to accept the diversity of others, and permit ourselves to be more flexible. Twilight is a place where all of us are neither here nor there, where, as Rabbi Reuben Zellman says,
“… we are many identities and loves, many genders and none. We are in-between roles, at the intersection of histories, or between place and place.”1
If we are concerned about the pain and suffering that exist in our daily life, if we hope that our world can be healed, if we wonder where we may find the source for tikkun olam, what if it all begins bein hashemashot? What if there is another item created in the twilight, one that the rabbis did not include in their list? I have no idea what it might be, but it seems like a good idea to explore the matter. Or perhaps we already have what we need, it is just that our current perspective doesn’t allow us to recognise it. In either case, it is clear that there is a richness in the twilight hour that is currently underappreciated. It is a sanctuary within which we may cast off old attitudes that cause conflict and damage relationships. It is a holy place whence we may reach for the One who transcends all boundaries. Twilight is where all who are made in God’s image may find love, acceptance, and the creative energy to heal our world.
When lighting the Shabbat candles, between the creation of the flame and the recitation of the blessing, it is the custom to cover our eyes. It is in this sacred moment that we embrace the twilight, pausing between darkness and light, creation and rest. This Shabbat, as you cover your eyes, may the twilight bring you peace. Shabbat shalom.
1 “Twilight People Prayer”, https://www.twilightpeople.com/twilight-people-prayer/
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