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Light Night

Friday, 12 May, 2017 - 7:24 am

Along with so many Jews and non-Jews in Boise, I was deeply troubled by this week’s terrible vandalism at the Idaho Anne Frank Memorial in downtown Boise.

The act was heinous. The condemnation is obvious.

But, aside for restoration, calls for unity and standing up to such hatred, what message does it have to me in my everyday life? It’s easy to recite the necessary allegiance to tolerating all peoples and loving humanity.  I wish I had a magic wand capable of making bigotry vanish immediately. Unfortunately, I don’t.

Absent that magic, we will continue to live in a somewhat dark world. What can I do about it? Especially, if I don’t usually come in contact with those that are capable of such horrific behavior.

***

In this week’s parsha, Emor, we learn about the counting of the Omer. Today is the 31st day of the Omer, the period between Passover and Shavuot. Each day we count toward the grand event of Receiving the Torah, which we relive on Shavuot.

Actually, ideally we don’t count each day. We count at night. The Jewish day starts at night, just like G-d’s day begins at night (see the story of Creation in Bereishit/Genesis). Although the prayer reads, “Today is x days to the counting of the Omer,” we actually recite it at night, the commencement of the day.

Why do we count at night and not by day?

***

The mystics teach that light represents holiness and G-dliness. Darkness represents that which is unholy and un-G-dly.

From the human point of view the world is a dark place. It’s up to us to brighten the world through the mitzvot we perform. Every time we give tzedakah, lay tefillin or light Shabbat candles – we are adding more holiness and banishing the darkness.

But, from G-d’s perspective, the beginning of everything is light. He existed prior to Creation. First comes light, then darkness.

Our job, the mystics explain, is to restore the original light. To bring the world in sync with the Divine viewpoint.

This is why we count at night. We recognize that the world is indeed a dark place. But, we also have the capacity – and duty – to change it, to add more light to the world. By counting the Omer, we are imbuing the night with holiness and light.

Instead of merely condemning the darkness in the world, I can actually add one degree of light. So, in addition to the public statements and firm resolve to eradicate evil, I am reminded that my greatest contribution is when I combat darkness with more light, with another mitzvah.

Ultimately, goodness will prevail. As the mystics teach, Moshiach’s arrival is the sign of a world transformed – from darkness back to light.

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