The Unburied Light

You can blunder around in the dark, carefully avoiding every pit. You can grope through the murky haze for the exit, stumbling and falling in the mud, then struggling back to your feet to try again.

Or you can turn on the light. There is a switch to the inner light buried without a doubt inside your heart. Even if it is ever so small, that is not important. Even a tiny flame can push away the darkness of an enormous cavern.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Stop Groping”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

This teaching seems fairly appropriate as we approach the close of Chanakuh. The lights and brightness of the menorah increase each night, declaring the glory of the miracles of God with greater illumination. This light also is a reminder to us that our “inner light” must glow and continue to shine brighter, declaring the glory of God and the message of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. While it is easy to light the candles each night or the lights on a tree for those of you who have just finished your Christmas celebration, the light inside can be more stubborn to kindle. How many of us, as Rabbi Freeman says, “grope through the murky haze…stumbling and falling in the mud” when we could instead be lighting up our world?

This coming week, we study Torah Portion Vayigash where we find Joseph at last, revealing himself to his brothers.

Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone withdraw from me!” So there was no one else about when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. His sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached Pharaoh’s palace.

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still well?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dumfounded were they on account of him.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come forward to me.” And when they came forward, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, he whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be distressed or reproach Yourselves because you sold me hither; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you. It is now two years that there has been famine in the land, and there are still five years to come in which there shall be no yield from tilling. God has sent me ahead of you to ensure Your survival on earth, and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance. So, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of all his household, and ruler over the whole land of Egypt. –Genesis 45:1-8 (JPS Tanakh)

To insert my own metaphor, it’s as if Joseph turned on a switch and shown a light upon himself that revealed his true identity to his brothers when before, they had all been in the dark. Joseph did something else though. He also revealed the light of his character in reassuring his brothers that he bore them no ill will and that their acts of evil against him resulted in God doing immeasurable good. Joseph reveals this light again after the death of Jacob.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrong that we did him!” So they sent this message to Joseph, “Before his death your father left this instruction: So shall you say to Joseph, ‘Forgive, I urge you, the offense and guilt of your brothers who treated you so harshly.’ Therefore, please forgive the offense of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph was in tears as they spoke to him.

His brothers went to him themselves, flung themselves before him, and said, “We are prepared to be your slaves.” But Joseph said to them, “Have no fear! Am I a substitute for God? Besides, although you intended me harm, God intended it for good, so as to bring about the present result — the survival of many people. And so, fear not. I will sustain you and your children.” Thus he reassured them, speaking kindly to them. –Genesis 50:18-21 (JPS Tanakh)

If Jacob was the last barrier between Joseph’s revenge and his brothers, certainly it was removed upon the death of their father and Joseph was free to lay the entire weight of his awesome authority upon those who had caused him so much harm. Yet it was not Jacob but God who illuminated Joseph’s life and from that light came grace and mercy, not condemnation and death.

How much like the light of the Messiah this is and this light is within each of us who call ourselves disciples of the Master. We know or we should learn, that shining this light upon others inspires them to in turn, become that light, just as the Messiah’s light has inspired us.

Rav Aharon of Belz once hired a certain workman to do some repairs in his home. While the man was busy at his job, the rebbe overheard others in the room say in an undertone, “This Jew works on Shabbos!”

The Belzer Rebbe immediately retorted, “Impossible! And if he did work on Shabbos, it must have been because he thought it was Friday!” He then turned to the workman who had heard the whole exchange and said, “Isn’t that right? You got confused and thought that it was Friday?”

The worker remained silent.

The rebbe again said softly, “You must have mixed up the date and thought it was Friday, correct?”

But the worker still wouldn’t answer. For the third time, the rebbe pleaded, “Didn’t you really believe it was Friday and not the holy Shabbos?”

At the rebbe’s final, exquisitely gentle insistence, the Jewish laborer mouthed, “Yes,” and then burst into tears. The man became a shomer Shabbos from that moment.

Similarly, Rav Shach was once in a taxi with Rav Shraga Grossbard. When Rav Shraga asked the driver if he was a shomer Shabbos, Rav Shach immediately cut him off.

“How can you ask a Jew if he is shomer Shabbos? Of course he is shomer Shabbos!” he exclaimed.

Some time later, Rav Grossbard was in the same taxi and the driver recognized him. The man turned toward the rav and said, “Don’t you remember me? The day that I heard the rav say I must be shomer Shabbos, I became one!”

Mishna Berura Yomi Digest
Stories to Share
“Turning a Blind Eye”
Siman 128 Seif 30-33

That we, as believers, should have an unshakable faith in God is a foregone conclusion, but here we see that in having faith in other people, though they may not deserve it, will yield wonderful rewards, not the least of which will be to turn their hearts to God. We cannot do this by condemning or ridiculing others but in treating even a person who is immersed in wrong doing as if they were already walking in the footsteps of God.

6 thoughts on “The Unburied Light”

  1. I think that’s why it has to be a matter of faith rather than just a “psychological technique”. If you truly believe the other person is holy, then that can somehow be transformative. I suspect though that in the examples given, the people wanted to be shomer Shabbos and felt guilty that they were not. It might not “work” on everyone exactly the same way.

    I actually read a story recently where this kind of faith worked in real life. These aren’t just cute fable and inspiring religious stories.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.