Tetzaveh: Light in the darkness

The past few weeks have been agonizing for the global Jewish community. Tragically, we have grown accustomed to acts of terror against Jews in Israel, but the deliberate targeting of Jews in Europe was an emotional blow. Is no place safe? Will they pursue us everywhere?
It is easy to fall into despair. There was no logical reason to attack Jews and Jewish landmarks in Paris and Copenhagen when cartoonists and free-speech advocates were the supposed targets. Yet, it appears that Jews are always the scapegoat. Those who hate us target us even when we do nothing wrong. To them, our very existence is wrong.
Yes, we are in a period of gloom; darkness has once again encroached, but don’t despair. If Judaism has taught us anything, it’s that there is light in the darkness. The deeper the darkness the brighter the light.
Light In The Darkness
G-d told Moses to instruct Aaron to light a candle in the Tabernacle. The Midrash explained that G-d does not need light. He instructed Aaron to kindle a light for us. Not for Him.
G-d sits in darkness, but He is the source of all light. As the verse states, “For you G-d are my light, G-d my lord, will enlighten my darkness.” We generally assume that it is dark in the darkness, but think about it, from darkness you can peer into the light and see clearly, but from the light it is impossible to see into the darkness. The mystical reason is that darkness is not the absence of light, it is the source of light. When you are in the light, you can’t see into the dark because you can’t peer up into your source. But when you are in the dark, you can see into light because from the source it is possible to look down.
Another example of light in the darkness is the eye. The eye is dominated by the sclera, the white of the eye, in the middle is the iris and at its center is a black hole, the pupil. Logically, the light should enter through the white of the eye or at least the iris which is often a lighter color. Yet the light enters and strikes the retina only through the pupil. The blackest hole lets in the strongest light and the message is clear. Where there is darkness there is light and the deeper the darkness, the brighter the light.
The upshot of this message is highly inspiring. Know that when you find yourself in darkness, you are near the source of light. Darkness is a malleable state. From it you can strike out in almost any direction. You can form friendships, forge commitments, find strength and discover new perspectives. It is uncanny how much we can gain from the dark if only we don’t despair.
In the last few weeks, we have learned a lot. We learned how to care for perfect strangers as if they are our own flesh and blood. We learned that despite the danger, we are there for each other and together we can forge ahead. We learned to turn to G-d in our time of distress. Throughout the world, Jews strengthened their faith in G-d and took on new commitments in terms of Torah and religion. We found comfort in each other and trust in the guardian of Israel, who neither sleeps nor slumbers.
There is light in the dark, but when the darkness is at its worst, it is difficult to find it. Our fears for ourselves and our families drive us to panic. There has been talk about mass Aliyah to Israel. We should certainly encourage Aliyah, but from a place of strength, not weakness. If we flee to Israel to escape terror, we give in to the darkness and the terrorists win. Instead we must remain in place, entrenched and dug in, and seek the light. The darkness is deep. But the brightest light is in the deepest darkness.
The Book of Esther teaches that when Haman pondered the best date to annihilate the Jews, he drew lots. The lottery pointed to the month of Adar and our sages taught that Haman rejoiced. He figured that this was a good month to attack the Jews because Moses had died in this month. Little did he know that Moses was also born in this month.
It has been suggested that Haman’s error was his misunderstanding of the darkness. You see, Moses was a man of light. When he was born, the entire home filled with light. His prime achievement was bringing the Torah down to earth and the very word Torah is synonymous with light. To Haman’s mind, the date of Moses’ passing was an extinguishing of the light, but he forgot the light in the darkness.
The Talmud hints at this explanation by telling us that Haman forgot that Moses was born during this month. The Torah was G-d’s reason for creating the world. Yet G-d waited twenty-six generations, before giving us the Torah. Throughout this time, the world had not fulfilled its purpose, had not justified its existence; it was sustained only by G-d’s kindness.
G-d determined to wait twenty-six generations before giving the Torah to the world and tasking us with justifying our own existence. As the term of this kindness waned, our fortune declined. We were exiled to Egypt and enslaved. At the end of the twenty-sixth generation, just before the birth of Moses, the harshness of the exile reached its zenith and Pharaoh decreed that all newborns be thrown into the Nile.
This was the darkest point for Jews in all of history. The light of the twenty-six generations had run out and all that was left was darkness. Yet, it was from this very darkness that Moses, the pinnacle and epitome of light emerged. With his birth, his home, nee the world, filled with light. When the light wanes and darkness encroaches, we know we are nearing the essence of all things, the source of all light. A newer, greater light can emerge from this point because darkness is the source of all light.
Haman should have thought of this when his lottery fell on Adar. When it occurred to him that Moses’ passing renders Adar a time of darkness, he should have remembered that Adar is also the time of Moses’s birth, which is itself a symbol of light in the darkness. Just as Moses’ birth emerged from darkness so would the darkness of his passing only give rise to greater light.
Haman’s error worked in our favor and indeed the Jews were saved from Haman’s evil decree despite or perhaps because of the darkness of their times. We too find ourselves in a period of darkness. But let us strengthen ourselves because there is light in the darkness. Not just a light, but the greatest light.