COMMENTARY: Let us bring light at a time of intense darkness

stronger than hate.jpg

Words no longer suffice. They are meager and lacking. They ring hollow to those deep in shock and grief. Many things come to mind, but to write yet another statement will be just that, another statement — more words, wholly inadequate.


The real statement we must make has to be action. We must be one people coming together, standing shoulder to shoulder, speaking out strongly against all violence and in support of peace, decency, solidarity. That must be our statement.


When our sacred Shabbat and sacred places are shattered by unthinkable evil, we must immediately bring a new sacred space into being by the act of being together. We will be there for each other, be strong for each other, support each other. Even a small act, a hand on a shoulder, a hug, a shared tear, is stronger than any statement.


The words in the Torah portion of Shemini come to mind: va yidom Aharon: and Aharon stood quiet. When Aharon’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, were burning incense to offer the Lord, a fire burst forth and consumed them: a strange fire, an inexplicable fire killed them. There is no explanation for this tragedy. For millennium we have been unable to explain the inexplicable. It is strange fire. When Moses told Aharon what had happened, Aharon spoke no words. He stood silently.


We will stand together in silence. We stand together in prayer. We stand together in sadness. And soon a tomorrow will come when we will stand together in celebration and song.


Hachagiga Nigmeret, by Naomi Shemer

And sometimes, the party is over.
The lights go out, the trumpets say
goodbye to the violins….

Chorus:

To wake up tomorrow morning
With a new song in our hearts;
To sing the song with strength,
To sing the song with pain.
To listen to the flutes sing freely in the breeze
And to start over — from the beginning.
From the beginning,
Recreate your world in the morning.
The lights go out, the trumpets say
goodbye to the violins….

Chorus:

To wake up tomorrow morning
With a new song in our hearts;
To sing the song with strength,
To sing the song with pain.
To listen to the flutes sing freely in the breeze
And to start over — from the beginning.
From the beginning,
Recreate your world in the morning.
The earth, the plants and all the lights,
And then from dust, in the likeness of humans,
Wake up tomorrow morning
And start from the beginning…..


To start from the beginning, lechathil miBereshit. And now we feel sad after such a tragic event. We have the rest of our lives ahead of us. We are a community with lofty dreams and goals.


We need to educate ourselves, increase our Torah intake in our lives. The one thing that gives rise to hatred is ignorance, so we must gather together and get to know one another. We must learn together and bring our children, to imbue them with the principles of friendship and learning together. We must educate them, allow them to grow in their Torah education at this crucial time in their development.


The Psalm for Shabbat begins with the words, “It is good to thank God, and sing to Your heavenly name.” We sing that song to wake ourselves up on Shabbat morning, to get in the mood with that high spirit to celebrate our Sabbath day. May that song inspire us to wake up every morning and start from the beginning. We must do whatever it is that we need to do in order to fulfill our mission to be an Or la Goyim, a light unto the nations. We must be an example for others. And to do that, we have to take care of ourselves and our congregation, and our larger community, by growing spiritually and communally, and increasing our learning.


Most of November is the Hebrew month of Heshvan, also known as Mar Heshvan. Mar in Hebrew could mean bitter, because there are no holidays during this month. Mar can also mean Mister, or Mister Heshvan, a month that can be great if we decide to make it great, if we decide it is a chance for us to Lechathil miBereshit, to start anew every morning with a new song and renewed strength.


Two things we must do this November. First we must vote. We must all go to the polls and each one of us can vote differently. And second, we must come together as a larger community in Downey for Thanksgiving. When we join together with our brothers and sisters of different faiths, we acknowledge that Thanksgiving is a holiday with a universal message, the message of togetherness and gratitude.


We are becoming more and more divided. Often we cannot talk to one another without animosity, forgetting the lesson that we ALL contain God’s spark. Each one of us contains that Godly spark, God’s image and likeness, that unifies us as human beings.


It is precisely at this moment of darkness when we must seek light. Ner Elohim nishmat Adam: the light of God is the soul of the human being. So the more of us that gather together, the more light we will bring to eliminate darkness.


May we be able to be up to our task. Let’s make sure that Temple Ner Tamid lives up to its name, the eternal light. The menorah in the ancient temple in Jerusalem was to be lit at all times, eternally, but that didn’t happen on its own. Our people added oil to it constantly. It is up to each and every one of us to keep adding oil to our Ner Tamid, so our Or laGoyim endures forever.


BeVirkat Shalom, May the blessing of peace, wholeness and goodness shine upon you all.

Daniel E. Mehlman is a rabbi at Temple Ner Tamid of Downey.

NewsRabbi Daniel E. Mehlman