Every now and then, something just hits me like “a ton of bricks” (ouch!) and shakes me to the core. Well, it happened this past Shabbos. We were spending Shabbos by our daughter in Migdal HaEmek, celebrating the bris milah of our newest grandson. During the shalom zachar, a friend of theirs gave a d’var Torah and asked a simple question: “What were the first words spoken in the world?” For some reason, I couldn’t think of them. Did Adam talk to Eve? Was it the discussion between Cain and Abel? My mind went blank. And then he gave the answer. It’s in the third pasuk in the Torah: “G-d said, ‘Y’hi Or!’” Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt”l translates that as “There shall be light,” while the Stone Chumash translates it as “Let there be light.” In any case, whichever translation you prefer, the meaning is clear. There was darkness and Hashem wanted light.
My mind started to race. Was this a one-time wish by Hashem for light to overcome the darkness, or was this an eternal command – for every Jew on the planet, every minute of the day – to brighten a dark world? I quickly concluded that it was “choice B” – that Hashem wants us, His chosen nation, to be the ones who light up the world.
And now for the follow-up question. How do we do it? There’s a joke that there’s no light switch in 7-Eleven stores, so if that’s true (and I’m not sure it is), where’s the light switch of the world? How can the Jewish people accomplish the task set before them? How do we shed light on a world filled with violence, corruption, distorted values, theft, rape, drugs, and other horrific things? Do we just send in the “repair guy” to change the world’s light bulb?
Here’s what I think: There’s no magic or easy way out. Lighting up this dark world is going to take a lot of hard work; but it is definitely possible! Remember the number one rule: Hashem does not give you a task you cannot fulfill! Therefore, if He wants the Jewish nation to bring light, we will bring that light – and here’s how. The source of our strength is the combination of three things: Torah, am Yisrael, and Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, in order for us to accomplish our job and fulfill our mission, we need all of those things working in unison. The Jewish nation must live in the Land of Israel and direct its movements, principles, and ideology by the Torah. The values leading the State of Israel must be Torah values and not Western ones. We need an army that fights like Joshua and King David did. We need to make sure our children are educated the way Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught their kids, and we need our leaders to stand tall and proud, radiating trust and complete faith in the One above.
Let’s be honest. Whether we like it or not, the eyes of the world are on little, tiny Israel. The New York Times and CNN report about Israel as if we are the size of Russia and China combined! Everything we say and do – both good and bad – is talked about (and usually condemned) by the entire world. Most of my friends get upset by this, but I love it! It proves that we are the center of the world. I love how the world judges us by a different standard; it’s because we truly are different! That difference is exactly what we need in order to bring light to the world. Think about it. They are looking at everything we do. They are watching, recording and ultimately reporting – so let’s make the most of it!
The world is begging for direction and that direction can only come from the Jewish nation, in the Jewish land, living by the Jewish Torah. When that happens – and only when that happens – there will be so much light in the world, you’ll need to walk around wearing sunglasses!