Sunday, December 18, 2005

Light and Darkness

I'm starting to get better and better with my gemara learning. Also, and probably because I understand better, I keep on enjoying my learning more and more. My teffilah is also going on much better. I'm improving in all areas. "Tov LEhodot Lashem"

As you all know, this passouk goes on saying "Tov LEhodot Lashem, Ulezamer Leshimha Elyon, Lehaguid Baboker Hasdeha Vemunteha Balelot". In other words: "Its good to praise G-'d and sing for him, to sing his goodness (chessed) in the day and his faith (emunah) in the nights". There are many questions that come out of this passuk: 1. Why is it "tov" to praise G-d? It's a duty, I understand, but why is it good? 2. Why do we sing the chessed in the day and the emunah at night?

It's obvious that in this passuk, the day represents the brighter times our lives or of the Jewish People as a whole while the darkness represents the harder times. Having said that, we can understand why we sing chessed in the day: this is when we see all the EXTRA good G-d gives us. For example, I can thank him for giving me the incredible opportunity of living in the land of Israel, and I know this is some extra good because so many gueonim, rishonim and acharonim who were much more pious then I am constantly yearned to be where I am. In dark times, it's very hard to think about all the extra good G-d gives us even if he still gives it to us then. However, why do we sing about our faith davka at night? Faith seems to be a pretty low level of singing. I mean, we all think that every Jew should at LEAST believe in G-d, that's the common perception, which means that having simple faith in G-d is not necessarily the greatest accomplishment. However, the question still stands, why davka at night?

Rav Kook in Ein Aya explained that the kriyat shema of the night one of galut because it concentrates on individuality. At night, we have to make sure we believe hashem is echad. This is why we say right after: "vemunah col zot vekayam alenu". We speak of emunah, emunah being a very personal thing. Imagine being in a dark room with absolutely no light: you are just with yourself. This is the kriyat shema of galut. However, in the day, we have a different shema. Then, when saying shema, we take upon ourselves to MAKE hashem echad by helping our Jewish brothers find him and follow him. This is not anymore a personal quest, its national. It's a quest of chessed: chessed is not within yourself but rather, you do chessed to someone else. This is the kriyat shema of the gueoula. So we see that at night, we sing the low level of emunah which is the only practice of G-d that we have during galut. During the day, we sing the song of Gueoula, shir chadash, a national song.

However, as bad as the darkness is, there is also a positive aspect to it. As much as our goal is to get away from it, while we are stuck in the darkness, we can still gain from it. The real darkness in our world is hester panim: this is when G-d separates himself from our world in a way that we cannot see him anymore and quickly start forgetting about him. We forget about our history, our future, our redemption and our land. This separation can also be very dangerous because without G-d's protection, who knows what could happen. Some people think of a mechitzah simple as a separation. While it is true that it comes to separate two things, its real value is in bringing people together. Think about it: If there were no mechitsah's in synagogues, orthodox men and women would be praying in two different synagogues. So to with G-d: When he creates a mechitzah between him and this world, sometimes it is really to get us closer to him. It is in the most complete darkness that we can recognize the smallest spark of light. That is why we close the lights before doing havdallah. To see the light, we need the darkness.

This is what happened in Channukah. The greeks were the worse darkness: They were completely interested in the physical world and only in the physical world. It is davka in that time that the Hashmonaim were able to show the light of the emunah, the simplest level of faith. People were refusing to bow down to idols not because they were talmidei chachamim (even though many were) but simply because they believed in G-d. It is that simple faith that led the Hashmonaim to victory. Therefore, on a national level, we can see that the darkness can be a great tool to see the light. Galut can be a great tool to think of redemption. Montreal, New York, London are great communities to live in IF they lead us to think about coming to erets israel.

On a personal level also, while singing for the chessed G-d gave us is obviously good (because we are getting the chessed), singing the emunah in dark periods is also great because then we can appreciates the smaler things in life, which are still present even in the darkest times.

May we merit seeing all the sparks of goodness in our times! And may they all come together on har habayit to form the beit hamikdash, a few steps away from where I am writing. May we see the sparks of goodness in our fellow Jews so that when we hug each other, our sparks accumulate into what will be the light of the Mashiach.

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