Wait, did he mess up the title? Isn’t it “A Light Unto the Nations”? What is “A Light of Nations”?
We all know the concept of A Light Unto the Nations. It’s the idea that what we are doing, as the nation of Israel, is impacting the world, that whether or not the world looks to us, it’s our responsibility to operate in a manner that the world will take notice and, hopefully, be impacted in a positive, Godly way.
And it’s absolutely true that it’s our responsibility to, as we say in the Aleinu prayer three times a day, “Fix (or perfect) the world (letakein olam — where tikkun olam comes from) as a kingdom of Almighty God.” But nowhere is it written that we will be a Light Unto the Nations. That’s a mistranslation.
A lot can get lost in translation.
For example, the world is already — just a bit over a week into our war against the Jihadists — turning against us, with one of their key points that we are not allowing the “Palestinians” to operate their hospitals without being in danger of bombing by the IDF. Well, that’s a mistranslation.
The actual deal is that the Jihadists run their terror operations from under the hospitals in Gaza. They do this because they want their own civilians to be killed so that the world can mistranslate and blame Israel. And, in fact, the world generally follows the script that the Jihadists write.
It is for this reason — the pathological mistranslation of the truth — that we need to be clear on our role in this world. And that role is not a Light Unto the Nations. It’s a Light of Nations. In this case, nations = groups within Israel.
It’s our job to create light.
That should be our focus. Creating light. Oh sure, we can provide it, too, but that’s not the primary task. We need to create it.
And my goodness, have we created it over the past nine days.
The Jihadists are our enemy, not just because they want to kill all of the Nation of Israel, but because they stand for darkness. We create light, while they create darkness.
They campaign heavily for darkness in the world, and many around the world are all too happy to join in. Black Lives Matter joined in. Students from top US universities, like Harvard, Stanford and others, joined in. And the entire “woke” culture has joined in (too many examples to link).
All of those elements stand for darkness. And while I guess you can suggest that not all of them want to kill us, they would all certainly be just fine if we were wiped off the map.
When we think of ourselves as a Light Unto the Nations, and hear about the nations (the nation of BLM, the nation of academia, the nation of woke, etc.) joining the darkness of Jihadists, it can be depressing.
When we see ourselves as light-creators, when we focus on light, we are sending an invitation to the entire world — to all of humankind — to join a wonderful party.
“You are cordially invited to join our party of light. This ticket is good for entry into an outlook focused on good, focused on helping, focused on Godliness, focused on building.”
Since this war began, I have been part of or heard about an astounding number of stories that are all about light.
Aroma, Israel’s largest coffee chain, has devoted its Bet Shemesh branch to providing sandwiches to soldiers. Non-kosher restaurants in Tel Aviv and other cities have invested in making their kitchens kosher so that they can provide food to those (soldiers and others) helping us in this war. A friend of mine has not run his multinational business since the war started, devoting 100% of his time instead to driving supplies around to various army bases. My son has developed a habit of sauntering out the door at a certain point each day, telling us as the door closes behind him that he’s going to help this or that organization. Soldiers are making videos to strengthen us during this war, telling us that they are fighting for our lives because they want us to enjoy ourselves.
Light. so much light being created.
X is a platform of darkness. Not because Elon Musk took it over. It was all about darkness before, too. Know that when you spend time on X, you are in the clutches of darkness. News outlets are also platforms of darkness. Even those that are completely on the side of Israel have much darkness to them. Know that. When you go to them and see the news, and then wonder why you are feeling rotten, know that it’s not you. It’s the impact of darkness.
Human interaction is a place of light. Sending emails to friends and family, just to say you are thinking about them, that’s light.
A good friend of mine in the US sent me the following voice message overnight last night:
“Hey, buddy. Just sending you a voice message to tell you I’m thinking of you, and (my son who was called up) and (my wife) and everybody. Sending love.”
It was a quiet, 10-second message. But do you know what it means to wake up to 10 seconds of light like that?
We informed our street that we’d be bringing things to our son’s base. We sent the message to them at 2pm, and we planned to leave on the trip at 7pm. By 5pm, the car was full. By 5:30, we transferred everything to a bigger car. By 7, that car was so full that I couldn’t see out the back as I drove.
Two hours later, we arrived at the base, and saw our son come bouncing toward us with a big smile on his face. He had two other soldiers with him, ready to unload the car. They smiled, too. Actually, we all smiled the whole time as we transferred everything. Smiles are light.
Another story, which I’ll keep short for the sake of space, involved me trying to find 100 headlamps and winding up in a hareidi neighborhood’s hardware store. Everything was calm until the store worked found out that I needed the headlamps for soldiers.
It was if I had said I needed them for the Third Temple. They snapped into action, using every connection they had to try to get me the headlamps. I felt unity that day. I still feel unity with them, and it’s one week later.
Unity is light. Look for opportunities to be unified.
Discussing now, while the war is really only just beginning, who is to blame for the horrible tragedy (The truth is that I’d need much more space to describe the tragedy effectively, so please excuse my phrasing it simply as “horrible.”) is darkness. Stay away from those conversations, and focus on conversations about light.
Serving as a Light Unto the Nations is a minefield. It requires us to spend so much of our energy wondering if our impact is being felt. And if we see darkness when we expect to see light, it’s devastating. It’s like we are failing.
But being a group of light-nations, whether we are secular or Torah-observant, whether from Tel Aviv or Itamar, or whether American or seventh generation Israeli? That’s amazing. That feels good.
And that helps the world, whether or not the world wants to receive what we have to offer.