The Earth was a vacant abyss, with darkness on the surface of the watery depths, and a great wind blowing on the surface of the water. – Genesis 1:2
As we enter the first Shabbat of the year, and we read the opening chapter of Bereishit/Genesis, our hearts feel like the Earth’s primordial dark void – a chaotic and terrifying abyss. Our people – families and friends, brothers and sisters – are caught in a stormy tempest of uncertainty and fear. Following the joyful heights of the Jewish holidays, we have suddenly been thrust to confront forces of darkness so heinous, so evil, that we find ourselves shuddering in disbelief. The jarring images of the past days have forced us to confront depths of hatred and sickening inhumanity. The world we believed we knew has returned to blackness.
How do we cope? How do we respond? The same way God does. To the darkness, God proclaims, “Let there be light!” – the first act of creation, the first act of blessing in this world. We too will light our Shabbat candles, countering the darkness in the world and in our hearts.
Like God, we will double down, destroying a cult of doom – of death and evil. As we light our Shabbat candles, we commit ourselves to the Jewish vision of bringing light and life into this world. We recommit to the light of the Jewish people, bringing illumination to our families, our community and to the world.
Please, God, as we enter your holy Shabbat day, please bring all of us the protection we need, sheltering all of the Jewish people under Your canopy of peace. Execute judgment on those whose actions have desecrated Your holy name through desecrating the image of God. Provide comfort to the mourners, safety to our IDF soldiers in the fight and a safe return to those taken hostage.
“For each mitzvah is a candle, the Torah a great light.” – Proverbs 6:23
Our candle lighting is a prelude to action. We will increase our Jewish commitments, our Jewish giving and our solidarity with the Jewish people wherever they may be. We will come together to pray, to learn, to mourn and to support one another. We will resolutely increase our acts of kindness and ultimately overcome the acts of wanton cruelty we have seen. We will continue in our timeless mission to be a light unto the world. In this merit, may God respond to all our heartfelt prayers.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, sovereign of the universe, who has sanctified us with commandments, commanding us to kindle the light of Shabbat.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה‘ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל שַׁבָּת
Baruch Ahtah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam, asher k’dishanu bemitzvotav vetzeevanu lehhadlik ner shel Shabbat
– Rabbi Frederick L. Klein