Zeh l’eumat zeh asa Elokim, King Solomon proverbially teaches (Eccl. 7). “G-d has made this against that.” He counterbalances everything. If there’s darkness, there must be light. If evil, good. If images of outrageous horror, there must be images of amazing inspiration.
This is where I’ve joined the battle against the evil of Hamas and one of its most outrageously unique tactics – to film itself perpetrating horror, and gleefully presenting it to the world. Sometimes, sending it directly to the loved ones of their victims!
I write this right before Shabbos-Breishis, the first Sabbath in the new cycle of Torah reading, which includes the iconic words: “In the beginning …there was LIGHT.”
The light of my camera.
I snapped a photograph, just a few days before this nightmare began. It was an amazing moment, revealing the convergence of a full moon and an encroaching winter, above a few of my neighboring Succot booths, all saturated with a palpable light, cascading heavenward. I’m printing and hanging it in my home, as an antidote to the evil we’ve all been absorbing, because it reflects a spiritual weapon which I now believe was given to us for winning this war.
The light of Succot is perhaps the greatest light in the Jewish arsenal. It’s not merely the heavenly light of Chanukah, Passover, or even comparable to the brilliant light of Purim, which tumbles, hilariously, into all kinds of wild places. Rather, Succot light is both out there, rugged, exposed to the elements, and very internal, contained. It’s a fine balance. As soon as you enter the Succah, you’re immersed, but as soon as you exit, poof – it’s gone. The rituals of Succot are not so intellectually demanding like Passover, and far from the childish excitement of kindling a few Chanukah wicks. It’s much more existential. Heaven is visiting earth, inviting you to strip away your material attachments for a week in order to find a brand-new source of security.
And so it was that I felt blessed to “capture” a spark of this truth, as photographers are wont to call it. But never did I imagine this would help me fight those bent on capturing and brutally extinguishing our light.
Zeh l’eumat zeh.
The Slonimer Rebbeh put out the thought this week that it’s a blessing that this evil happened upon us right after Succos. For that’s when our nation is spiritually inoculated, he said. So clean. So pure. No disease can get in! This follows the golden rule, he reminds us, about how the Almighty is makdeem refua l’maka, “provides medicine before the blow” for those He loves. Because whatever the blow, it’s meant to help us grow. It’s really just a pinch. A kick. Alright, a hell of a shake sometimes.
But it’s still an act of love.
This got me thinking. Learning how to use the light of Succot throughout the year could be one way to embrace that love.
What defines a Succa? Its roof. It must be of material that makes clear that there’s no real division between heaven and earth. Stars can be seen. That’s why the mystical tradition is that the patriarchs visit us, as it were, only on this holyday. Because it’s the only time they won’t feel captive to the dark forces of earth. As the Torah portion somberly informs us: “And the earth was abysmal and void.”
Bomb shelters are the opposite of Succahs. One might have thought that those repulsive remnants of the primordial abyss would have chosen the time when we’re all sitting in our Succahs to get us. It would have made their job so much easier, G-d forbid. But they couldn’t.
There was too much light.
So how to fight back? The Four Species. We shake them during the week of Succot. The symbolism is well known: LULAV = Mind; ETROG = Heart; HADASS = Eyes; ARAVA = Mouth. I think I have a handle, to some degree, on shaking my lulav, etrog and arava. But the hadass – I’m not so sure. My eyes have been seeing some G-d awful images, and I’m now struggling to cleanse myself from the morbid excitement that seemed to creep in. It was “better” than the worst horror movie! My mind, heart and mouth kept saying no, NO, NO! But my eyes… were held captive.
So that’s what I’m hoping to do, as my part in the battle against the forces of darkness: To wash my eyes with the light of Succos.
It may not seem comparable to the incredible sacrifice that our soldiers, diplomats and fundraisers are making. But the truth is, when you’re channeling the Almighty’s light, you’re a warrior for HIS war. Recapturing the light of Succot is furthering the divine battle against the forces of darkness that has been going on since Creation. It’s no coincidence that Isaiah (60:18) tells us that in the end of days, “Violence shall no longer be heard in your land.”
The Hebrew for violence there is “Hamas.” After this massacre, can anyone doubt that they chose their name with cosmic precision??
We can make great advances even just with our Sabbath candles. Let us not just light them, mumble a blessing, and get on with the business of religious observance. How about looking, meditatively, serenely, into the flames of this most ancient and beloved religious ritual, and trying to connect with the true source of security. How about letting the stars of faith shine, deeply within … and then proceed to take our Sabbath rest as if we’re surrounded by a macro Succah. The difference being, of course, that in the micros, you can exit.
Let us celebrate every Sabbath that the divine light is our HOME.
We must be clear. This is not merely a Jewish war. Fighting the darkness of Hamas is something that the best of mankind can join. I know at least one who will agree. Dr. Quanta A. Ahmed – a Muslim reformist, waging an ideological holy war against radical Islam – recently wrote these mind-bogglingly encouraging words to our nation, at this critical juncture in our history (Israel’s jihad remains my jihad, the IDF my soul soldiers):
“Be not afraid, for you go not alone (…) My Lord is your Lord, He is your shade, your shelter, your Commander. You are invincible because so is Our Lord. You are victorious, for He will triumph. Tonight, Hamas does not know its war is with God. But soon it will be revealed (…) You go with God, he goes with you. You go into His light and with His strength, and he will shepherd you back to Peace in ways we cannot know. And when it is done, Hamas will be none, and we will be one.”
Our “shade” and “shelter” is our succahs. Thank you, Quanta, for reminding us. I look forward to celebrating with you, and other good souls, which our sages tell us will all gather together under one succah, in Jerusalem, at the end of days. It will be one grand celebration of the light of Creation, totally obliterating the abysmal void.
A light of which no one will be able to capture.