- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On January 19, 2018
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat.
The sun may shine brightly, but it still feels very dark. Wherever I go I seem to encounter a dark malaise in so many. People express how they feel unnerved, imbalanced and out of sorts. Though the winter brings a certain kind of light, darkness has penetrated into the depth of our very being.
This past weekend as part of the way we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a few dozen Temple Israel members joined with Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain for their Sunday service. We are fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with their pastors Gloria and Ray Hammond. They welcomed us with open arms. Pastor Ray Hammond treated us to a beautiful sermon on darkness, which struck a chord for all of us. He made the point that despite, and because of darkness those who pray, and those with faith can see in the dark. It is an idea our communities share. We may use different references, but we can value the possibility that praying, and having faith can sustain us as a source of strength to face the darkness.
For us, praying means deep introspection and search for meaning within our own souls. When we consider what happens during the high holidays as we gather in prayer, we know about the hard work we engage in. Similarly, faith is a willingness to see ourselves as part of a greater whole nurtured by a belief in hope, and a greater power beyond just what we can do alone. This is not a one-way kind of spirituality. We understand that the experience of prayer, and the power of faith turn us inward in order to project ourselves outward toward the world.
And this is where the Torah portion for the week comes in. Moses still tried to get Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. The final three plagues wreak havoc. The last one will be a horrible twist of “what goes around comes around” when the decree of the death of the first-born plagues the Egyptians, particularly Pharaoh. But, it is the penultimate plague, which catches our attention this week: darkness.
Moses held out his arm toward the sky and thick darkness descended upon all the land of Egypt for three days. People could not see one another, and for three days no one could get up from where he was; but all the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwelling. (Exodus 10: 22-23)
What kind of darkness was this? One commentator offered this explanation:
The greatest darkness is when a person does not see his fellow, and does not participate in the distress of others. “They did not see one another”—they did not feel one another’s distress. Their senses were dulled—“Neither did they rise from his place.” This is what our Sages meant when they stated in [the midrash] Exodus Rabbah that ‘”the darkness was as thick as a golden denar (a certain coin). Running after the golden denar increases one’s egocentrism, dulls [one’s] eyes, and makes it difficult for him [or her] to feel the distress of [others]. (Even Ha-ezel in Itturei Torah)
If people who pray or have faith can see in the dark, then what do we do with that ability? It is to find the light. That light is what the prophets taught. It is what we strive to enact with righteous impact. The antidote to darkness is to see one another’s distress, and act to ameliorate it. As Dr. King taught “darkness doesn’t wipe out darkness, only light can do that.”
We celebrate with Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. Livestream HERE. The Rashi/Temple Israel families gather for a special Shabbat dinner tonight. Torah study begins at 9:00 a.m. with a short service followed by an engaging discussion.
Share with me your darkness and your light directly and confidentially HERE.