Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Are you afraid of the dark? Some statistics show that most people are. For, in the darkness there are so many unknowns and we fumble and fear. But even with the lights on, many of us have lost control of our lives and feel that we are experiencing intractable dark circumstances. But my friends, that is because we attempt to see with our physical eyes only. We look for external fake “lights” to lead us to better times and feelings never realizing that the light we need to access most is the internal one, the light of G-d within. When we use that light to go through life we are reinforced with faith and the deep knowledge that all things which appear as darkness are opportunities from Hashem to shine. For, it is the crushed olive which brings forth oil and from that oil we bring forth light to the world. As Judaism teaches, “Oil refers to the inner resolve of our neshama (soul) that emerges in times of challenge.” (Chabad)
The Chazon Ish, a renowned rabbi, pointed out to his students as they approached a lit lamppost that the closer they got to the light, the smaller their shadows became; The farther they went from the light their shadows became larger, scarier and disproportionate to the truth. The lesson is clear: The further we go away from the source of truth, Hashem, the more our lives appear to be vulgar and resemble incomprehensible shadows which deceive us and terrify us. But it is against the backdrop of darkness where our greatness of character and spirit can excel and where impediments and hardships are rendered whetstones to sharpen our greatness and potential.
The sages teach that where there is sadness blessings cannot reside. And that is why even in the depths of difficulty we must know that G-d is there with us pushing us toward our light. He is pressing us as olives to nurture our faith wherein we will remain positive minded, optimistic and faithful. The evil inclination attempts to push us toward sadness and despair; For he knows in that zone we reach for further darkness, i.e. drugs, food, alcohol, lies, revenge, blasphemy, etc., to coddle us. He is the master of that zone, that pitch-black place, wanting to keep us chained to grief, despair and fear. All conditions which prevent us from serving ourselves and G-d healthily. As the Alter Rebbe taught: “Think good and it will be good.” Note, he said it long before modern day “life coaches” who advocate positive thinking.
It is no coincidence, that the week of Chanukah falls during the time of year when the nights are longest. The menorah stands as a symbolic inspiration of the triumph of light over darkness. And in this week’s Torah reading, Mikeitz, we see that after 12 years of being in a dungeon, Joseph is liberated with such speed that the whole episode of his liberation and his subsequent audience with Pharaoh all happen in one sentence. He believed in G-d regardless of his circumstances; he radiated light in the depths of the pit, the dungeon and the trials of his captivity, and his life changed instantly--an instant end to darkness. The same was true of the Jews’ liberation from Egypt. They were slaves for 210 years and overnight they were rushed out of captivity, so much so that the bread didn’t rise, hence we eat matzah.
In Judaism, we believe that what happened to our ancestors is a sign and a prediction what will happen to us. We too must remain strong and focus on the light and be certain that Hashem will redeem us too from our miseries and heartaches as a nation and as individuals. The Jewish nation is compared to the moon which wanes and sometimes “hides’ but it waxes ever anew, and so can we if we place ourselves in proximity to the light of G-d.
At first glance it appears that Joseph’s own dreams were the cause of his troubles. They evoked envy and defensive behavior in his brothers and resulted in his sale to Egypt. But in the end it was dreams themselves which liberated Joseph from imprisonment when he was summoned to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. And it was dreams which elevated him to the most powerful position in the land just under the Egyptian ruler. In that position his brothers come to bow before him and all people and lands came before him to be saved from the famine.
See the light! Be the light! And as you lick your “wounds” never forget the words of Jeremiah the prophet speaking in the name of G-d: “I will heal you with your own wounds.” So do not despair and do not fear the darkness of your troubles for the light is always there. Invert your view from “seeing is believing” to “believing is seeing.” Let there be light!