Perceiving the Light Parashat Vayeshev, 23 Kislev, 5776
1 א
(א) בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃ (ב) וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃ (ג) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י א֑וֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר׃ (ד) וַיַּ֧רְא אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶת־הָא֖וֹר כִּי־ט֑וֹב וַיַּבְדֵּ֣ל אֱלֹהִ֔ים בֵּ֥ין הָא֖וֹר וּבֵ֥ין הַחֹֽשֶׁךְ׃ (ה) וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ לָאוֹר֙ י֔וֹם וְלַחֹ֖שֶׁךְ קָ֣רָא לָ֑יְלָה וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם אֶחָֽד׃ (פ)

(1) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (2) Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. (3) And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light. (4) And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. (5) And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

2 ב

Rabbi Shalom Noach Berezovsky, the Slonimer Rebbe (1911-2000)

The essence of the Greek war to destroy the Jews was by means of darkening the eyes of Israel. The Greeks knew that they would not be able to successfully defeat the Jews by military means--rather only by darkening their eyes...

There are people who, despite the fact that they involve themselves with Torah and the service of God, walk in darkness. These people do not perceive light and are considered [spiritually] dead. The purpose of human beings is that they see with a clear lens the Divine light which shines within all Creation. As we find in the origins of Creation, ‘and the earth was unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep...and God said, Let there be light; and there was light. God saw that the light was good...’(Gen. 1:2-4) This light was not physical light, but rather Divine light...

Within a glimpse of this light, a person sees the strength of the Creator within all of Creation. [With this vision] a person does not perceive a separated world in which all things are disunited. Rather, [a person sees that] everything is One and that a singular elevated power sustains everything. [When a person sees with this vision] there is no longer any place for ‘unformed and void and darkness.’ And this is the essence of the Greek war--that they darkened the eyes of Israel.

3 ג

Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter of Ger, the Gerer Rebbe (1847-1905)

It is written: “A lamp [candle] of the Lord is the soul of man, searching out all the belly’s chambers.” [Prov. 20:27] The Talmud notes that searching requires a candle. One candle from another. “I will seek out Jerusalem with candles.” [Zeph. 1:12]

Sanctuary and Temple are found in every one of Israel, as Torah says: “I will dwell within them.” [Ex. 25:6] These are present insofar as a person makes it clear to himself that all of life-energy comes from the soul. Thus we say each day: “The soul that You have placed within me is pure...” This means that there is a certain pure place within each person, but it is indeed deeply hidden.

When the Temple was standing, it was clear that all life-energy came from God. This is the meaning of the verse “the indwelling of Shekhinah [in the Temple] was witness that God dwells in Israel.” But even now, after that dwelling place has been hidden, it can be found by searching with candles. The candles are the mitzvot; we need to seek within our hearts and souls in order to fulfill a mitzvah with all our strength...

Especially at this season, when lights were miraculously lit for Israel even though they did not have enough oil, there remains light even now to help us, with the aid of these Chanukah candles, to find that hidden light within. Hiding takes place mainly in the dark; we need the candles’ light to seek and to find...By the power of inwardness we can find the hidden light within all our own hidden chambers.

4 ד

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (1902-1994)

My father-in-law reported this conversation with his own father Rebbe Sholom Dov-Ber, then the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

The hasid asked: Rebbe, what is a hasid?

The Rebbe answered: A hasid is a streetlamp lighter.

In olden days, there was a person in every town who would light the gas streetlamps with a light he carried at the end of a long pole. On the street corners, the lamps were there in readiness, waiting to be lit. A streetlamp lighter has a pole with fire. He knows that the fire is not his own, and he goes around lighting all the lamps on his route.”

Today, the lamps are there, but they need to be lit. It is written, “The soul of man is a lamp of God,” and it is also written, “A mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light.” A hasid is one who puts personal affairs aside and goes around lighting up the souls of Jews with the light of Torah and mitzvot. Jewish souls are in readiness to be lit. Sometimes they are around the corner. Sometimes they are in a wilderness or at sea. But there must be someone who disregards personal comforts and conveniences and goes out to ignite these lamps with his or her flame. That is the function of a true hasid.

5 ה

Albert Einstein

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.