Rabbi Yair Robinson
Bereshit 2023: Reveal The Hidden Light
This past week has been a whirlwind. A movement that felt, in so many ways, like the opposite of the creation story, like we moved toward chaos and void, instead of away from it.
Friday last week was an amazing celebratory night of music, dancing with Torahs, unrolling the scroll, and welcoming children into the joys of lifelong learning of Torah. The world is sustained, the Talmud and our stained glass windows remind us, by the breath of schoolchildren. Certainly last Friday they sustained us.
And then Saturday we awoke to horror, the world cast into darkness. Some of us started calling family and messaging friends to make sure they were safe. There was a lot of feeling helpless, and feeling useless. There have been tears, doomscrolling, lifting up of voices, embraces, and a lot of anxiety. A lot of trauma. I’ve been lucky: my non-Jewish friends and clergy colleagues have been supportive and sympathetic. I know that’s not been true for so many. We’ve prayed and rallied. And now here we are, celebrating Shabbat, celebrating a wedding couple, a bar mitzvah, celebrating the creation of the world in our sidre: celebrating, all of us, safe, relatively speaking, in our spiritual home. It feels funny, in this moment, to be celebrating, after the news of the past week.
What are we to do in this moment? How are we to square our pain and mourning with this Shabbat?
This year, at Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world, I shared a Hasidic story about the first moments of creation. I’d like to share it again now, in the hopes that it helps.
Rabbi Eliezer said: “In the light that God created on the first day, a person could see from one end of the world to the other. When God foresaw the misdeeds of future generations, God hid this light from them, reserving it for the righteous of the future. Asked his disciples, “where was it hidden?” He replied, “In the Torah…” They asked, “If so, what should the righteous do when they find some of this hidden light of Torah?” He replied, “they should reveal it in the way they live.”
The world feels very dark right now, and we know—perhaps better than anyone—that the world has been dark before. It is up to us—through our acts of righteousness and justice—to reveal God’s light in the world, to illumine against the darkness. Not to give in to our pain and grief, not to surrender to our rage, but to reveal that light in all we do. In our support for Israel, in our care for all innocent life, in our prayer, in our acts of lovingkindness and tzedakah, in our learning, and yes, in our joy and celebration. In that way, may we fulfil the words of our tradition, our prayerbook and the prophet Isaiah, that light will shine like the dawn, that night will be as day, and that a new light will shine on Zion, a Zion restored and whole. May we each reveal that light as we say, Amen.