Morning Meditations

Light in the Darkness


As impossible as it sounds, as absurd as it may seem: The mandate of darkness is to become light; the mandate of a busy, messy world is to find oneness.

We have proof: for the greater the darkness becomes and the greater the confusion of life, the deeper our souls reach inward to discover their own essence-core.

How could it be that darkness leads us to find a deeper light? That confusion leads us to find a deeper truth?

Only because the very act of existence was set from its beginning to know its own Author.

As it says, “In the beginning . . . G-d said, ‘It shall become light!’”

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
From the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory
“Mandate Unmasked”

When God began to create heaven and earth – the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water — 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.Genesis 1:1-5 (JPS Tanakh)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Yesterday’s morning meditation borrowed from the daf for Chullin 29 in describing a person who has fallen far from the light of God. Yesterday, I also quoted from Rabbi Freeman’s interpretation of the Rebbe’s wisdom in which he says, among other things, that we “only fall down in order to bounce back even higher”. It is said that every descent we must make is for the sake of an ascent. Every fall brings us to the point where we will rise. Drop a heavy chunk of ice into a swimming pool. First, it will sink under the surface, but then it will rise back up.

The words of Rabbi Freeman quoted above are taken from a collection called Meditations on Moshiach (Messiah). Both Christians and Jews long for the coming (or return) of the Messiah and the day when he will heal our injured, bleeding world and us along with it. Put another way, lock anyone in utter and complete darkness and they will search, perhaps in vain, for even the tiniest glimmer of light.

That’s what we’re doing. We are people in the dark, straining our eyes and our spirits, seeking to glimpse a spark of the Moshiach and a sign of his Kingdom come.

Whenever things got worse, Jews would say, “This is a sign! Moshiach is coming!”

But in those days, a messianic era would have meant a radical change in the natural order of things.

Today, though the human soul sleeps a deep slumber of materialism, the material world itself is prepared.

Rabbi Freeman’s Good Signs commentary reminds me of many in the church or even some self-styled “Messianics”. There seems to be an obsession about the “end times” and “end time prophesy”, as if people are looking for secrets and conspiracies worthy of some sort of “spiritual X-Files”. Every earthquake, every flood, every war is “a sign” that vaguely and tenuously points to some scripture confirming that the Messiah’s coming is just around the corner. However, as we see from history, our world is replete with signs and with would-be Messiahs, and yet the world is still here and we’re still waiting in the dark.

Rabbi Freeman’s interpretations of the Rebbe continue:

The final war is not fought on battlefields, nor at sea, nor in the skies above. Neither is it a war between kings or nations. It is fought in the heart of each human being, with the armies of his or her deeds in this world.

Indeed, the final battle or in my point of view, our “daily battle”, is not one of great wars, terrible disasters, or supernatural and miraculous events taking place in the larger world or in cosmic realms, but rather, it is fought moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour, in the heart and soul of each individual who professes trust and faith in God.

We are still in the dark, but it is a mistake to look to the future or to the outside, or to mystic prophecies of epic, panoramic events to see the Messiah. To find him, we must look to the light within and be mindful of where we are and what we are doing at this very moment:

At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. –Matthew 24:23-25

While Christians sit passively, seeking signs of his coming in the world outside or in arcane interpretations of scripture, Jews understand that people, all people, have an active part in bringing the Messiah. Not that we can control the day or hour of his coming, but we can prepare the way, by ordering our lives, turning more fully to God, and helping to repair the world, fixing one small, broken piece at a time. The Rebbe knew this when he said:

There is no need to tell a Jew what he or she must do to bring Moshiach. Our job is only to wake them up. Once awake, every Jew knows what he or she must do.

If it is not evil, we must use it for good.
If it can be raised higher, we cannot leave it in the dirt.
For everything He made, He made for His glory.

Do not leave yourself in the dirt, pining for what may be coming outside of your senses. Stand up now. Act in God’s Name to make the world a better place, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant your efforts. Who knows? Even the most humble prayer of a sincere and righteous disciple could make the difference. Your actions may be modest, but the cause you join is magnificent:

When journeying upon the path of wisdom, do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought. –Matsuo Basho

A Jew never gives up. We’re here to bring Mashiach, we will settle for nothing less. –Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh