בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ
וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָֽיְתָ֥ה תֹ֨הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְח֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִי־א֑וֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר
“In the beginning of G-d’s creation of the heavens and the Earth.
And the Earth was desolate and void, and darkness was upon the waters.
And the Almighty said let there be light, and there was light” (Bereshit 1:2-3).”
Bereshit: In the very beginning, when the world was desolate and void, and darkness loomed over the waters, a profound transformation occurred. The Almighty’s words, “Let there be light,” pierced through the darkness, bringing forth a radiant beacon. This divine act of creation teaches us a timeless lesson – that even in our darkest moments, there is always hope. As Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in the name of the Chafetz Chaim, beautifully expounds in his book, “Growth through Torah,” this concept is as relevant today as it was during the genesis of the universe.
The world today often feels like a place shrouded in shadows. We face challenges and uncertainties that can be overwhelming, much like the darkness that initially enveloped the Earth. But just as a single candle can dispel even the deepest of darkness, so too can the light of hope and faith illuminate our lives.
During World War II, Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a, (currently the senior Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem), a student of the renowned Rabbi Moshe Schneider ztz”l, found himself studying in a Yeshiva in London. It was a time when devastating news of the mass murder of Jews in Poland was reaching their ears. Faced with the horrors of the Holocaust, some students expressed their reluctance to celebrate Simchat Torah with such grim tidings. Rabbi Schneider’s response was unwavering – not even Hitler ym”s, the most ruthless oppressor, could eradicate the enduring customs and traditions of the Jewish people.
In our challenging times, we must draw inspiration from the unwavering faith of these Chachamim. Today, our world is in turmoil, but we continue to see the resilience and unity of the Jewish people shining brightly. In every corner of the globe, stories of compassion, kindness, and support for one another abound. The recent events have plunged us into a state of darkness. Still, we have an opportunity to let our light shine through.
It is fitting to recall the words of the beloved song composed by Ibn Ezra,
כי אשמרה שבת א-ל ישמרני
“Ki Eshmera Shabbat Kel Yishmereni.”
By observing the Shabbat with extra devotion and love, we invoke the protection and blessings of the Almighty. Our actions have the power to change our reality. Let us honour our brave soldiers and pray for the swift return of captives and the speedy recovery of the wounded by lighting our candles on time (this week at 6:08 pm), refraining from cooking or using electronic devices, and coming together fervently in the Synagogue.
As we prepare for Shabbat, let us keep in mind that our collective strength is the light that will pierce the darkness. The candle lighting time reminds us that even in the darkest hours, we can be a beacon of hope for ourselves and others.
Am Yisrael Chai Vekayam – the nation of Israel lives and endures!
In unity, let us pray for G-d to shine forth a magnificent light heralding the arrival of Moshiach. May this Shabbat bring blessings, peace, and abundant light into our lives and the world.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay