D’Var Torah: October 7, 2015

Dear Friends,Parshat B’reishit
When G-d began to create heaven and earth – 
the earth being unformed and void, 
with darkness over the surface of the deep
 and a wind from G-d  sweeping over the water 
G-d said, “Let there be light” and there was light.
Genesis 1:1-3
The first words that G-d speaks in the entire Torah are, “Let there be light.”  Out of a world of tohu vavohu – unformed chaos, and with darkness over the face of the deep, G-d begins to bring order, but before even creating the sun and the moon, G-d brings forth a heavenly, G-dly light.  Our tradition teaches us that we are made in the image of G-d, and that we should strive to be like G-d.  Our first lesson in how to do this is contained already within the first three verses of Torah:  First let there be light.
When we are faced with darkness, chaos, evil, confusion, disruption, the instinct that most of us have is to withdraw, to become defensive, or offensive, to react.  G-d shows us that in the face of the most ultimate chaos, the first step is to bring light.  If we were to do this, to stop ourselves from reacting for just a moment and instead to bring the light of learning, of friendship, of fellowship, of love, of community to our problems, how much more capable would we be to see the night from the day, to separate the bad from the good, and then to be able to declare with a whole heart, “it is good.”
This Wednesday, we will begin a new Hebrew month, the month of Cheshvan, often called Mar Cheshvan – the bitter month of Cheshvan.  Why is it a bitter month?  Because it is month devoid of Jewish holidays (with the exception of Shabbat, of course).  The holidays, even the sad ones, offer us a chance to bring spiritual light into our lives, to improve ourselves, to connect with others.  Cheshvan, though a welcome respite for clergy, offers no such built-in opportunity.  Instead Cheshvan is a bit of a proving ground, a time to take everything that we gained from the holidays of Tishrei and assimilate the lessons, to carry forth the light of holiness and integrate it into the mundane.  And so we come into Mar Cheshvan with the words of Torah echoing in our ears, “Let there be light,” for with holy light we can cut through the bitter time, to bring once again the warmth of connection, community, and holiness.


Cantor Sally Neff