THE FIRST synagogue I ever visited was the Mikveh Israel synagogue in Curaçao, a Caribbean island off the Venezuelan coast. I’d been hired to research the 500-year history of the Sephardi Jews who ended up in Venezuela.It was summertime. On the beach nearby the sand was warm and golden, echoing the outer walls of the synagogue. The sand on the floor inside was cool and white, as were the walls. The arched open windows were lidded with a cobalt-blue glass, the color the sky would become by the time service was over. Service times varied each week with the sunset. I, a recovering Catholic, had found this charming. At some point during the service, I suddenly felt I could breathe. I realized that I must have been holding my breath for the previous ten years.My life until I left home for university had been circumscribed by light. At sunset I fed the poultry and the livestock before school. The south Texas rice harvest began after the sun had burned off the dew and ended at dusk. But since leaving the farm, light had become abstract to me. There was no longer anything in my life I could not do using the light of bulbs or candles; nothing for which I needed the sun. Part of the gift of this synagogue was the miracle of light, of ordinary light.