Praised are You Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe through Your word evening falls. With wisdom new opportunities are given, and understanding comes with the changing seasons, and through time everything passes. By Your will You arrange the order of the stars in the sky. You create day and night, rolling light from darkness, and darkness from light. And no matter what may transpire during the day, you still bring the evening. You make a separation between day and night. Your name is the Lord of Legions, Living and Existing God. You will always rule over us for eternity. Praised are You, Adonai, the One who brings on the evening.
If it’s not clear to all of us by now, I will just state the obvious, we live in a broken, fractured world. Our world is a place of inconceivable evil and random acts of kindness. A year ago we were celebrating the equality of love and today, on this Shabbat, we are once again experiencing, in the aftermath of last weekend, the division and horror of hate. As King Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Rabbi Isaac Luria of the 16th century, one of the great thinkers of Jewish Mysticism, who knew that there was evil in the world, wasn’t even able to conceive of a theology without weaving into the narrative of his creation myth, the themes of brokenness and concealed spiritual light. To Rabbi Luria, God is hidden or hiding from us.
Certainly following the expulsion from England, Spain, and Portugal, after having thrived during long periods of peace with our neighbors, the Jewish community was still recovering from the wreckage of Europe’s xenophobic exile and forced conversions. Large groups of Jews migrated eastward, some into the areas of Poland and Russia and some exploring the region of the Levant, the Middle East. Many Jews with Spanish heritage wound up in Israel and in particular, they settled in the mountains of the north, close to the sea of Galilee. This was Safed or Tzfat.
A region that was the center of the textile trade, Tzfat was the home of many fabric factories and a number of trade routes came out of that area. As it was a thriving city, the Jewish community was at the height of its spiritual creativity and depth of thought. The rabbis of Tzfat were more spiritually bold and audacious than those in Jerusalem and the region in the mountains was the acknowledged center of the world’s Kabbalah revival. It was in this environment that Rabbi Luria preached his beautiful and mythic Kabbalah that would spread throughout the world and whose influence is still felt today.
Rabbi Luria taught that God’s light, the flow of God’s spiritual influence and love, can only metaphorically be seen or perceived through a clear lens, like sunlight streaming, uninterrupted, through a polished glass window. But the glass through which we can potentially experience God’s light, in this world, today and since the time of creation, is cracked and chipped and the light has no choice but to refract into millions of broken rainbows. Moreover God’s light is concealed within all the matter of the universe, in the nice neighborhoods and in the bad ones. Light is light is light is light is light and no matter where one is, there are opportunities to experience the perpetual presence of God’s light.
Because the lens through which we perceive the universe is cloudy or compromised, according to Rabbi Luria, we can only sense a refraction of duality in the world. We are unable, without practice, to see the unity in the universe and to see God’s light everywhere and in everything. This duality is responsible for our seeing the world as a place of good and evil, black and white, left and right, life and death, and love and hate. King Solomon too, in the book of Ecclesiastes, recognized that there is time for everything under heaven, and he famously lists a litany of opposites that we all may have encountered in our lives. “There is a time to be born and a time to die. There is a time to kill and a time to heal. A time to throw stones and a time to gather them.”
Fortunately, the Kabbalists of Tzfat believed that, personally and universally, we have the potential to polish the lens that allows us to purely perceive the cascading light of God’s progenitive power. There are sparks of divine light hidden and embedded in husks throughout, and as, the entire universe. All of our known world, all the matter of the world, is comprised of repressed radiance. When we act in holiness, with righteous intention, we release those sparks of God’s light into creation and bring closer the day when we all have God consciousness and enlightenment.
Oh God, in this fractured and fragile world, let us clearly see You and Your light in the outpouring of love and kindness that follows tragedy and destruction. Knowing You are present everywhere, let us dwell on the good in all humanity until, through Your will, we are blind to evil and hate and only see Your benevolence and the face of God on every person. May we fulfill the ancient promise to help heal this broken world and soon, in our time. Praised are You, Adonai, who causes everything to pass.