D'var Torah: Parashat Bo and Tikkun Olam

February 7, 2017

In last week's Torah portion, Bo, we encountered darkness and light. The darkness was so thick, the Egyptians couldn't move around for three days. The Israelites, in contrast, found themselves in a special light, a light like no other, which the Zohar says "emerges from darkness."

 

For the Egyptians, the darkness marked the absence of God, an abandonment caused by Pharoah's selfish, self-centered and stubborn commitment to slavery, a reality which stunted his and his people's collective moral growth.

 

For our ancestors, the light revealed not only God's presence, but the recognition of their capacity to bring light into the world themselves by maturing, by expanding themselves, by embracing the needs of others (the Slonimer Rebbe)-a wisdom that has significance in our own time.

 

Sometimes the world feels so dark. Shadows like xenophobia blacken our lives, and it seems like the God that has enough love for us all is driven so far away. And yet, the sun rises each day, giving us hope. And, as this week's Torah portionBeshalach reminds us, we remain free--like we have since the Exodus, in which God set us free and catapulted us from Egyptian slavery to Sinai and we first dedicated ourselves to using our liberty to care about the poor and the vulnerable and the stranger. And in our embrace of others, we draw near to the God who loves us all. Moreover, we practice tikkun olam.

 

Tikkun olam, of course, is healing the world. But at the heart of tikkun olam is the collection of God's broken shards of light. This is the primordial light of God, the light present on the first day of creation and emerging from the darkness of Egypt, the light of awareness. The more we repair this light the more we open our eyes to the sacred work that must be done to make a difference in the world, the more fully we summon the maturity and moral becoming that calls us to action. See the light! Struggle on!

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