Newsletter        December 30, 2010 - 23 Tevet 5771


Forms of Light

My sister-in-law's moods were remarkably affected by changes in the light outside. A resident of Montreal, she easily shrugs off the cold and snow, but the light determines her affect. Bright sunlight puts her in a great mood. A dark cloudy sky depresses her. She is a passive victim of the light. Lulu refers to her experience as SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder; a type of depression which affects millions of people every winter. Everyone who knows her describes her a a "ray of sunshine." She lights up a room with her energy and life force. She is definitely not a person who is passive. How interesting that she, literally a Light Generator, can be so passively affected by the light outside.

We are all familiar with both forms of light: Our ability to create light, joy and energy, and the times when we are victims of our environment's light. There are times we foster our own light when praying, and times when we are passively affected by the energy in the synagogue. We can enter a synagogue and immediately sense and experience the passion and joy of the community, and unfortunately, we can also be deflated by a rote and passionless prayer, leading to Synagogue Affective Disorder. We can study with joy and spark our own light. We can sit in a class with distracted and disconnected people, and fall victim to SAD; Shiur Affective Disorder. We can join a group of people excited about studying and be elevated by the room's energy.

These two forms of light, active and passive, define the challenge presented by God to Israel in this week's portion, Vaeira. It is the ultimate decision Israel would have to make in its relationship with God. The people passively observe as God devastated the Egyptians with the first seven plagues, and shone His Light on them. Moses doesn't even speak to them. He doesn't offer any guidance. They will remain passive victims of light even when faced with the intense light at Sinai, when they witness God's Light. It is only at the conclusion of Shemot - Exodus, when they rise from being passive to become Light Generators. The Book concludes with their successful efforts to build the Mishkan - Tabernacle, and create a space that not only contains, but invites God's Light to their building. Vaeira, "And I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," who actively generated sufficient light of their own to arouse My Light to join their's. "This," hints God, "is what I desire for you."

"And the Lord said, 'Let there be light.'" The first step in emulating the Creator is to become a Light Generator. The Trees in the Garden of Eden were, "Tov l'mareh," Good for Vision, for people who want to become Light Generators, but Adam and Eve viewed the Tree of Knowledge as, "Ta'avah l'einayim," as passively receiving light. They were the first victims of SAD, or Sin Affective Disorder, and chose passive light rather than becoming Light Generators.

We face the same choice in everything we do: We can choose to passively be affected by our prayers, study, actions and relationships, waiting for inspiration. Or we can choose to become Light Generators. We can generate our own light with our prayers. We can nurture light with our Torah study. We can spark new light in our relationships. We can become Light Generators and invite God's Light to join ours, the highest emulation of the Creator of Light.

I wish you a Shabbat of Light Generation, beginning with the light of the Shabbat candles, and peaking with the light of Havdalah.

Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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