No one likes walking alone at night. Eclipsed by dark curtains of the unknown, one feels their head on alert and their heart anticipating being hurt. At those times, the need for light is felt as strongly as the fear in one’s bones; one flicker can take the pain of uncertainty and reveal a pathway with all the answers — all it takes is one source of light. On Rosh Hashanah, we seek to collect the light of Hashem for our year, to guide, support, and lead us through what is yet to be.
Every stage of life is privy to that experience, and it expands as time goes on. For young children, the concerns may be more minute, such as missing a parent while in school. Teenagers and young adults can relate to it through social angst or mental health concerns, while adults will see it in their careers, family lives, or existential fears. In each of these scenarios, the worry of what can be and what will be cave in like the thickness of a pitch-black room — a ray of light is direly missing.
For the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, we read a chapter of Tehillim that centers around this idea, as found in its very first verse: “Hashem is my light and my salvation — whom should I fear? Hashem is the stronghold of my life — whom should I be frightened by?” (Tehillim 27:1). Midrash Tehillim says that Hashem is “my light” on Rosh Hashanah and “my salvation” on Yom Kippur. This idea of Hashem as our “light” encapsulates a fundamental idea to maximize our Rosh Hashanah and ensure we prepare for the best year possible.
What does light do? In our analogy of walking through darkness, light becomes the vehicle for change. It illuminates everything for all to see, familiarizing the unfamiliar and identifying the unidentified. The figure in the night that, at first, seemed like an approaching criminal or a ravenous bear turned out to be a rustling shrub or an oddly shaped boulder; the shadows peeking out of closets and around murky alleyways are shooed away by the wave of light a streetlamp can provide. With light comes clarity, and with clarity comes calmness and stillness, the realization that you are safe and all will be well.
When Hashem is our light, we receive this in the highest degree. Commenting on that initial line in Tehillim 27, the Malbim says that this chapter tells us about living a life in connection with Hashem. He says that the greater conscious connection one has with Hashem, the greater one will experience Hashem’s involvement in their life. Hashem is like a light waiting to be turned on, waiting to have the permission to enter our lives. As much as we want Hashem in our lives, all the more so does He want to be in our lives. Once invited in, Hashem brings sight and vision, the ability to see the road ahead with the assurance that you’re right where you need to be.
In Masechet Rosh Hashanah, Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak says that on Rosh Hashanah, judgment is passed as to what will happen at the end of the year (8a). Hashem has the foresight, so to speak, to see where our year is heading and what awaits us in the future, what we can call the night.
The most important choice we can make, though, is whether we’re going to make Hashem our light — the God, Parent, Guide, and Friend Who holds our hand throughout it all. This year, we don’t need to walk alone into the night. Rosh Hashanah tasks us to adjust the dimmer switch in our lives and turn up the brightness. We need to allow Hashem entryway into our days. When Hashem is our light, we are safe and we are accounted for — there is nothing to fear.