Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Breishis (Genesis 1-6:8)

Shine Your Light: Reaction to the Tragedies in Israel
Most years the Haftorah this week contains the famous verse that the Jewish people will be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6)The light we have given the world has been made apparent due to the tragic events of this past week. If you want to get an indication of what the world looked like before the idea of a kind and compassionate G-d, who demands that every life has value and every human be treated with dignity, look at the horrific cruel acts committed to innocent Jews this past Shabbos on the festival of Simchat Torah. Murder, rape, dismembering, and other atrocities are the work of people who do whatever they feel appropriate to achieve their objective. As Dostoyevsky famously wrote, if there is no God, everything is permitted. So many of the democratic principles we take for granted today such as justice and equality, public education, peace rather than war as a goal, and social responsibility were virtually unknown in the ancient world.  The idea of emulating a kind, compassionate, and forgiving  G-d is diametrically opposed to the behavior we saw a few days ago. Anne Frank got it right when she said, “Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason only do we have to suffer now. (Diary entry April 11, 1944). The crueler you are, the more you will hate Jews. As long as we attach ourselves to our authentic Jewish identity, we will continue to give the world the gift of light and moral direction and continue the wonderful work of those who lived before us. 
But how are we to view the gruesome behavior the world witnessed this week? And the earth was desolate and void, and darkness was upon the waters … and the Almighty said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. (Genesis 1:2-3).
At the beginning of creation, the world was completely dark without even the faintest hint of light. One cannot chase away darkness with hammers or axes but light just one match and the darkness is gone.
When the world is totally dark, one statement of the Almighty, “Let there be light” is sufficient to light it up! Although there are times when the world is encompassed by a spiritual darkness that endangers its very existence, there is always hope. In one instant the Almighty can send forth His word and there will be a great light. The world was and is a dark place without Jews but a few words from the Almighty dispels the darkness.
How can we apply this to the situation in which we presently find ourselves—worried and anxious? When you keep in mind that the Almighty has the power to shine forth a magnificent light, you will have the ability to overcome your negative attitude of despair. By verbalizing to yourself, “I am a light. I am meant to shine my light you will find the strength to call upon the Almighty to help us shed our light on the world.Even before the light appears, you will be full of hope and realize that the darkness itself is part of the Almighty’s plan. When you are in a dark place, develop the habit of repeating, “Let there be light.” Just by repeating these words over and over you will begin to feel the light of the Almighty penetrating your heart and soul. Even if our collective situation or your personal situation remains as it is, when you experience the Almighty’s light you will have the strength to deal with any situation from a position of spiritual strength. When you know there is a plan carefully designed for you by the compassionate and generous Creator of the universe, you will shine a ray of light—and hope—to your dark place, and as a result you will be able to bring light to others.What can we do for our brethren in the Holy Land? Most of us are not in a position to send heavy artillery or other weapons, nor are we in a position to have a tangible effect on foreign policy, so what can we do? Pray. There is no mitzvah in the Torah of fixed daily prayer but there is mitzvah to pray in times of trouble. Our job now is to pray for the welfare of those in Israel, especially the brave members of the Israel Defense Forces.
No prayer goes unheeded—including yours. Let go of some ego and start praying—our brothers and sisters in Israel need it now more than ever. Good Shabbos
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