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UPS AND DOWNS IN LIFE

Friday, 16 October, 2015 - 1:03 pm

You might have heard of the MC who introduced the guest speaker: “Our speaker needs no introduction. What he needs is a conclusion.”

We all need conclusions. And that is what matters most. What is our conclusion? “And there was morning; and there was day; and there was light.”

Most countries in our industrialized world have accepted midnight as the beginning of our 24-hour day. The current world calendar thus begins the counting of "days" with about six hours of darkness  followed by twelve hours of light, and ends with six hours of darkness. The midnight-to-midnight cycle originated in Rome and Egypt.

Other cultures determined the start of their day differently. The Babylonians, worshipping the sun, reckoned it from sunrise to sunrise; the Umbrians from noon to noon.

It was the Jews who started their day in a completely different fashion: at sunset. Shabbat does not begin Friday at midnight, or Saturday morning at sunrise; it begins Friday at dusk when the sun sets, and it continues till nightfall of Saturday.

Why is it this way? Why do Jewish holidays begin at nightfall? Should a new day not begin when we awake, rather than when we retire? Night, it seems, is the end of the day rather than the beginning of a day! Why not commence a new day with light rather than with darkness?

What is more, why does each of our days consist of 24-hour periods, which includes both night and day? Would it not make sense for our days to be divided by the clear demarcation of light and darkness—each morning a new day; and then each evening a new and separate day?

The answer to this question is contained in the Torah reading of this Shabbat Bereshit, where we repeat six time the same phrase:

"And it was evening, and it was morning, one day… And it was evening, and it was morning, day two… And it was evening and it was morning, day three…”

The Rebbe shared a deeper explanation for this structure of Jewish time, where the day begins with night and concludes with daytime.

Everyone agrees that life is full of ups and downs. We go through periods where the sun is shining upon us and we feel on top of the world, only to turn a corner and be faced with difficulties and obstacles that drag us down. But it isn't long before something pleasant comes our way to pick us up again.

The question is: which one wins the day, the ups or the downs? Are we on a journey upwards, with challenges along the way to make us even stronger in our quest for truth?  Does darkness extinguish light, or does light conquer darkness? Does night follow day or day follow night?

The Jewish view is clear. "And it was evening, and it was morning." First the night, then the day. Darkness is a pathway to the sunrise hiding behind it. A challenge comes our way only to help us tap in to and reveal our inner powers that have until now remained unrevealed.

As the terror continues in the Holy Land, Our greatest mistake, is to jeopardize our own safety by attempting to endlessly appease those who will forever despise us.

Stop bending over backwards to try gaining the favor of people whose hatred to you is irrational! Whatever you do, will forever be wrong. When you are dealing with such people, there is only one way: Stop apologizing for your right to exist and do whatever you have to do to protect your children. There comes a point where you must muster the courage to do what is morally right, not what is acceptable to people who could not care less if another million Jews die. Don’t be scared of the world and protect your people and your G-d.

That's Jewish time: the comfort in knowing that no matter how dark it may seem, it is light that will have the last word.

This is why the Torah does not designate night time as an independent day, nor does it even allow us to begin the day with sunrise and conclude it with night time, or midnight. The darkness of night must never be perceived by us as possessing an independent substance. Darkness according to Jewish thought, is only a prelude, an introduction, a forerunner for light. “And there was evening, and there was morning;” Night is the beginning of a journey; it has a purpose: to transform it into light; to use it as a prelude for a new light, for a new beginning, for new horizons, for new discoveries.

This idea reflects our entire life narrative.

“And there was evening, and there was morning.” When we are in the womb of our mother, we are in the dark. It is night time. But then comes birth—when we emerge into a bright world, where we see the light of day. Birth is the morning that follows the evening of pregnancy.

But then, we die. It is night again. The body of our loved ones are, again, interred and concealed in the earth, eclipsed by the dense opaqueness of silent earth. “And it was night.”

But in Judaism, the day never ends with night. The soul does not die, it lives on for eternity. And will even return back to life after the coming of Moshiach.

A small child walked daily to and from school. Though the weather one morning was questionable and clouds were forming, this child made the daily trek to the elementary school.

As the day progressed, the winds whipped up, along with thunder and lightning.

The mother was worried that her child would be frightened walking  home from school, and feared the electrical storm might harm her child.

Following the roar of the thunder, lightning would cut through the sky like a flaming sword.  Being concerned, the mother got into her car and drove along the route to her child's school.  Soon she saw her small child walking along, but at each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up at the sky and smile.

One followed another, each time with her child stopping, looking at the streak of light and smiling. Finally, the mother called and asked, "What are you doing!"

Her child answered:

“I'm smiling for G-d; He keeps taking pictures of me."

Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

 

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