It Is Not Sacrilegious To Ask The Hard Questions In Wartime. It Is Crucial.
Darkness comes first. And only afterwards light. That is the way G-d created the world, as we read in the opening chapter of the Torah which we begin again this week: “Vayehi erev, vayehi boker/it was evening and it was morning” (Genesis 1:5). The phrase is repeated six times for each of the six days of creation prior to the sabbath.
Why begin with darkness? Why delay the light?!
We are currently in the dark. A deep, dark night has engulfed us. Morning will come at some point, we have to believe that. But for now we are struggling to see. Why G-d? Why do You allow darkness? Why does it come first? Why does it come at all?
It is not sacrilegious to ask such questions. It is crucial. We want to understand Your ways, G-d. How can you let this happen? What are You thinking? What are you doing? What should we be thinking and doing at a moment like this?
Doing is the priority. Defending ourselves is the most important thing. Those who are in a position to do so are being mobilized. Those who can contribute material and financial support should do so to the extent of their capabilities. There is little time to sit and pontificate when our loved ones are being murdered, desecrated, and abducted.
But we can’t help thinking. The questions won’t wait until the war is over. In the moments between action, or for those of us far away from the front lines, turning to G-d and imploring Him for answers is part of an appropriate and necessary response.
Asking G-d for answers does not mean that we expect to understand the inexplicable – after all, we are merely human and there are things that are beyond our comprehension. But it is a recognition that He is orchestrating these events, however frustrating and difficult that is to imagine. Why G-d?! Why? Why? Why?!
The Sages have been wrestling with these questions for millennia. Why is there suffering in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why, if G-d is good, and if He is One, does He create and tolerate evil? Why, returning to our initial question from the dawn of Creation, does darkness precede light?
The Chasidic Masters teach that darkness is the prerequisite for existence. G-d is “Ohr Ein Sof,” a singular infinite light. In this infinite light, there is no possibility for existence of anything other. The mystics compare this to the orb of the sun in which there can be no distinct or individual flames. In order to create the possibility for otherness, G-d had to conceal Himself, so to speak. He created darkness so that His light would be unseen. In the resulting dark spaces, we – each of us an individual spark of His divine light – could come to be. It is our purpose and mission to operate in this darkness to reveal the light that has been hidden.
Our enemies do not want us to reveal the hidden light. There are forces in the universe that oppose unity and revelation. They terrorize the world with violence and savagery in order to propagate darkness. Their goal is not merely victory. It is to weaken our faith. ‘If your G-d were all-powerful,’ they challenge, ‘would He allow us to mutilate your warriors, rape your daughters, and kidnap your children and elderly?’
It is a powerful question. They know what they’re doing. If we lose our faith, we will lose our resolve, we will lose our way, and we will then lose everything.
We are here with a very clear purpose and mission, to unify the creation by revealing G-d’s Oneness. It is our mantra that we recite every single morning and evening – “Shema Yisroel A-donai E-loheinu A-donai echad/Hear O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is One!” We close and cover our eyes when we pronounce these holy words, acknowledging that even when we cannot see, even when we cannot understand, even in the deepest darkness, we recognize and profess this fundamental truth.
This doesn’t stop us from asking why. It doesn’t stop us from pleading with G-d to reveal Himself and to finally end this dark night and bring the promised morning. But as we ask, as we pray, as we fight to defend ourselves, there are ways for us to hurry the dawn, so to speak. Every single mitzvah is another chink in the darkness. It is another “kelipah/shell” broken and another fragment of the primordial light revealed.
We are lamplighters and light-workers, and G-d has given each of us a book of 613 reusable matches with which we are able to illuminate His creation daily. We are experiencing the darkness that precedes the dawn, and now is the time to strike as many matches as possible. Each individual deed may seem insignificant, but every one is a cumulative flame that gradually reveals the hidden sun. “Vayehi erev vayehi boker/there was evening and there was morning” – first there was concealment and division, and then, with our help, morning and its unifying light will overcome the darkness.