This week's parsha
From Darkness to Light
A central theme in life is the transition from darkness to light. It is often there in one’s experience as an individual: a patch of darkness, tinged with gloom and misery, which seems to swallow up everything. And then one moves on, making a step forward, and the darkness gives way to light.
A hint of this transition is seen in the way the book of Leviticus connects with the preceding Torah reading, the final words of the book of Exodus. The final verses of Exodus describe the completion of the Sanctuary, the wonderful portable Temple which was built at the foot of Mount Sinai, which was to accompany the Jewish people throughout their long journey in the wilderness, and which was to be set up in the Land of Israel when they finally got there.
A thick cloud then covered the Sanctuary. In fact, on account of the cloud, Moses himself was unable to enter the Sanctuary. After all the effort which had gone into building it, it was covered by a mysterious cloud, and was inaccessible.
Then comes the beginning of Leviticus: “G‑d called to Moses . . . !” The cloud cleared, and Moses was now able to enter the Sanctuary and be instructed by G‑d.
This, comments the Lubavitcher Rebbe, expresses the revelation which came after the darkness. The fact that it was preceded by a period of inaccessibility, when Moses could not enter the Sanctuary due to the thick cloud, heightens the power of the divine revelation when it came.
Torah teachings are eternal, and apply to each individual. One way the process of transition from darkness to light relates to each person is in terms of the step of teshuvah, repentance.
The person strayed, or fell, into a realm of darkness. G‑d is concealed. The person feels remote from the divine, unable to enter the Sanctuary. Then he or she makes a step forward, towards G‑d, returning to their own essence. This is teshuvah, repentance, return. The person makes a single tiny step, and G‑d “calls” to him or to her, like G‑d calling to Moses, meaning: you are Mine.
This process of personally entering the Sanctuary after the period of dark cloud and concealment has different modes. It can be so powerful that it is not only a transition from darkness to light, but a total transformation of darkness itself. One does not simply put the gloom and misery behind oneself; the negativity and darkness are themselves transformed into radiance. We start to see our problems and frustrations as opportunities for growth. The negative becomes a springboard for the positive. Somehow, paradoxically, joyfully, the ultimate effect of all the ups and downs is goodness.
This personal transformation is a taste of the goal of the Jewish people as a whole, and for all humanity, when the darkness of exile will be transformed into the radiance of redemption. Then, truly, the gloom of night will shine like day.