By Rabbi Yossy Goldman
“And the L‑rd said, ‘Let there be light.’”
Light has always been the most favored metaphor for all forms of revelation. The “G‑dly light,” “Divine light,” a “new light.” Do you still walk in darkness, or have you “seen the light”?
The mystics teach that light is an obvious choice to illustrate the spiritual because it is the least material of all physical entities. The ray of light that streams into your bedroom window in the morning is ever so subtle, intangible, yet it is a very real, illuminating presence.
As physical light brightens our path so we don’t stumble over potholes, so the light of G‑dliness, our spiritual awareness, helps us avoid the pitfalls on the journey of life.
Indeed, light is so much more than a mere bulb or fluorescent fixture. Light represents truth, values, and principles that are eternal, the spiritual which transcends the mundane, the monetary, and the momentary.
The story is told of a wealthy man who had three sons. As he was uncertain which son he should entrust with the management of his business, he devised a test. Thus he hoped to soon know who was the wisest son, who would be a true man of vision. He took his three sons to a room which was absolutely empty, and he said to each of them, “Fill this room as best as you are able.”
The first son got to work immediately. He called in the bulldozers, the earth-moving equipment, and workmen with shovels and wheelbarrows, and they got mightily busy. By the end of the day, the room was filled, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with earth.
Then the room was cleared and the second son was given his chance to fill the room as best he could. He was more of an accountant type, so he had no shortage of paper. Boxes, files, archives, records that had been standing and accumulating dust for years and years suddenly found a new purpose. (You know hoarders like that too?) At any rate, it didn’t take long, and the room was filled from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with paper.
Again the room was cleared and the third son was given his turn. He seemed very relaxed and didn’t appear to be gathering or collecting anything at all with which to fill the room. He waited until nightfall and then invited his father and the family to join him at the room. Slowly, he opened the door. The room was pitch black, engulfed in darkness. He took something out of his pocket. It was a candle. He lit the candle and suddenly the room was filled with light.
He got the job.
Some people fill their homes with earthiness, with material things—lots of physical objects and possessions which clutter their closets but leave their homes empty. Our cars and clothes, our treasures and toys, all lose their attractiveness with time. If all we seek satisfaction from is the material, we are left with a gaping void in our lives.
Others are into paper. Money, stocks, bonds, portfolios. But there is little in the way of real relationships. Family doesn’t exist or is relegated to third place at best. On paper, he might be a multimillionaire, but is he happy? Is his life rich or poor? Is it filled with family and friends, or is it a lonely life, bereft of true joy and contentment?
The truly wise son understands how to fill a vacuum. The intelligent man knows that the emptiness of life needs light. Torah is light. Shabbat candles illuminate and make Jewish homes radiant with light. G‑dly truths and the eternal values of our heritage fill our homes and families with the guiding light to help us to our destinations safely and securely.
As we begin a new Jewish year, may we all be blessed to take the candle of G‑d and with it fill our lives and illuminate our homes with that which is good, kind, holy, and honorable. Amen.
Rabbi Yossy Goldman was born in Brooklyn and was sent in 1976 by the Lubavitcher Rebbe as an emissary to serve the Jewish community of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is Senior Rabbi of the Sydenham Shul and president of the South African Rabbinical Association. His sefer “From Where I Stand: Life Messages from the Weekly Torah Reading” was published by Ktav and is available at Jewish book shops or online at www.ktav.com.