In the beginning of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth. [Genesis. 1:1]
The first portion of Genesis is a world onto itself. Every word is important. Simple phrases prove remarkably complex and contain multiple meanings. After all, how do you build a universe?
Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water. [Genesis. 1:2]
There are several spots on earth that might fit this verse: Antarctica in the winter — when there is no light. The snow drifts are endless and a few steps later the stranger is lost. Or perhaps the Sahara Desert. Mauro Prosperi lost his way during a race in 1994 and described sand dunes that walked and danced, a yellow wall that blocked his way, and sand that blew until his face ached.
The sages say this verse is a metaphor for Israel. G-d created the world for Israel. But before there was Israel, the Earth was not fully formed: It was a solid mass without trees, plants or even sunlight. Darkness reigned, a metaphor for evil. Sin was the norm. Brutality dominated. G-d created the Earth, but His presence could not be felt on the ground.
The worst part was the “deep,” or the abyss. If you were stuck in this primordial zone, you’d be scared to take a step. You might fall straight down. You’re frozen.
This scenario is not limited to the Six Days of Creation. In Psalms 10, David screams to G-d to look at the evil. He was on the run from Saul. Nobody wanted to help the young shepherd, anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel. David became the outlaw.
Arise, O Lord G-d, lift up Your hand; do not forget the humble…You saw. For You look at mischief and provocation with Your Power…
Adin Steinsaltz was regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the last century. He was born into a Marxist family but as a teenager concluded that he was taught all wrong. Encouraged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the young Israeli wrote a translation and commentary on the entire Talmud as well as other Jewish tracts, including Maimonides and Tanya. Until his death at age 83, he challenged his students to think for themselves and avoid the rat race of money and career.
In Psalms 10, Rabbi Steinsaltz explains that David asserts that G-d himself causes the wicked to become powerful. The world appears totally abandoned, controlled by the worst elements of nature or man.
There is another type of darkness: The darkness of lies. Those who engage in lies seek to obliterate the truth, or at least dilute it with so many lies that what is real becomes unrecognizable. We are commanded to distance ourselves from false people. “There is nothing worse than this,” says the Sefer Hachinuch, a rabbinic text published anonymously in 13th-century Spain.
The Talmud in the tractate Pesahim goes far beyond prohibiting lies. “The Holy One, blessed be He, hates a person which says one thing with his mouth and another in his heart.”
What we face today is the darkness of lies. The Israeli military warned at least three times over the last seven months of an Iranian-sponsored multi-front war that would include the Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Syria. Egyptian intelligence even told Israel the probable date of the attack. Sounds serious, right? But the military, under the authority of the civilian government, did not train its ground forces, removed hundreds of soldiers from the Gaza border; took away the army-issued weapons from nearby communities. And on Oct. 7, thousands of Iranian-trained fighters, some of them bearing U.S.-origin M-16 semi-automatic rifles, broke through the border fence. Whoever saw it was killed within minutes.
While Hamas was butchering babies and raping women, the Israeli high command prevented a response by the army and police for at least five hours. More than 1,200 people were killed — the highest daily toll since the Holocaust.
On the first day, Hamas fired 3,500 missiles and rockets into Israel. The projectiles fell everywhere. The exceptions were the Tel Aviv business district, with its endless line of office towers; the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange; the Ramat Gan Diamond Exchange and even Ben-Gurion Airport, the latter which had been a target in previous Hamas wars. The money machine did not miss a beat.
And hours after the bloodbath, the United States, which a week earlier relayed $6 billion to Iran, sends an aircraft carrier group to Israel with advanced F-35 fighter-jets and ground weapons. The regime and its friends cheered. What a coincidence!
How do the lies take over? Simple. The little lies are forgotten; the bigger lies are forgiven. And then comes the massive lie which sweeps through the land, wiping out everything in its path. By this time, you can no longer tell a lie from the truth.
And G-d said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And G-d saw the light that it was good, and G-d separated between the light and between the darkness. [Genesis. 1:4-5]
G-d could have acted the way many despots would. They would have kept the darkness and filled in the abyss. This way, you’re still in the dark, but you might feel somewhat safe.
Instead, G-d decided that the priority was to end the darkness. And that means light. The light was good but must be separated from the darkness, or else the former loses its potency.
It’s the same with the truth. Truth is the most important antidote to lies. Good is vital in opposing evil. You cannot mix the two.
As the unprivileged, there is not much we can do to counter the lies of the ruling elite and their allies. They are powerful and we are weak. They are rich and we are poor. They dominate the media. We have no voice. They have their safe havens throughout Europe and the United States. We have this one land that G-d gave us.
But we can do one thing: Tell the truth and take care of each other. Inbal Lieberman is the head of security at Kibbutz Nir Am, located 450 meters from the Gaza fence. On Saturday morning, she received a phone call that told of the Hamas infiltration. The young woman was reassured that there was no need for panic.
Lieberman was not mollified. She ran from house to house waking up families and dragging her small squad with their weapons to the kibbutz’s main gate. When the Hamas thugs arrived, the kibbutz members opened fire and 25 infiltrators were killed. Nir Am was saved because a woman cared for her people. No, Lieberman says, she’s not a hero.
And that’s how you fight darkness.