Parashat Beha’alotecha 5779

Rabbi Yuval Keren – 14 June 2019

“When you mount the lamps, let the seven lamps give light at the front of the lampstand.” (Num 1:2)

In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth. The first element to be created was light. “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.” (Gen 1:3-3).

The logical problem we have with the light, created on the first day, is that the sun, the source of light in our world, was created on the fourth day. Therefore the Jewish understanding of the light of the first day is that it was a Divine, spiritual light, the light of goodness and righteousness. The darkness is understood to be the absence of that light rather, and therefore the absence of goodness, rather than another element of creation. The spiritual light of the first day was there to overcome the absence of light in the form of darkness and void, that was present before it.

This primordial light was so strong that the vessels containing it could not hold it any longer. They shattered into pieces and were scattered in the world. Since then it became the task of humanity to engage in tikkun olam, the repairing of the sacred containers of light.

In scripture light is therefore used as metaphor for goodness, and darkness is for evil. Isaiah (45:7) makes this connection very clear: “I form light and create darkness, I make peace and create ra. I the Eternal, am the creator of these elements.” According to Jewish tradition shalom, refers here to light and goodness, and ra, is darkness and evil. Yet evil is the mere absence of goodness in the same way that darkness is the absence of light. Goodness is the active glue by which we repair the shattered vessels of light.

The Prophet Micah (6:8) gives us a clue for the way we can increase goodness in the world. So how do we bring about the light of goodness?

The Prophet Micah (6:8) gives us the answer: “What is good, and what does The Eternal require of you? To perform justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” All three elements are bound with the spiritual and ethical principles of the Torah. According to the Tannaitic Rabbi Hillel the entire Torah is manifested within a single principle: Do not do to others what you do not wish to be done to you. Another Tannaitic Rabbi, Akivah, claims that the most fundamental principle of the Torah is “Love your fellow”. Both principles are one, and, if followed, they both bring a wealth of light into our world. The world is illuminated by the spiritual primordial light. That light is brought forth by acts of goodness and kindness. Kindness is the product of love. It is therefore with love, rather than hatred, that we repair our spiritually broken world.

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