Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Making Light for Ourselves

This past weekend, summer instantly disappeared. The weather dropped twenty degrees over night and the sky darkened dramatically. It seems appropriate that we read Parashat Noah this time of year. A rich and perplexing verse is found in this portion. God tells Noah, "A LIGHT (ZOHAR) YOU SHALL MAKE FOR THE ARK." When trying to figure out what the word "Zohar" meant, the rabbis had the following discussion in Genesis Rabbah , a compilation of sacred stories about the Torah:

R. Hunia and R. Phinehas, R. Hanan and R. Hoshaia could not explain [the meaning of ZOHAR]; R. Abba b. Kahana and R. Levi did explain it. R. Abba b. Kahana said: It means a skylight; R. Levi said: A precious stone. R. Phinehas said in R. Levi's name: During the whole twelve months that Noah was in the Ark he did not require the light of the sun by day or the light of the moon by night, but he had a polished gem which he hung up: when it was dim he knew that it was day, and when it shone he knew that it was night. R. Huna said: Once we were taking refuge from [Roman] troops in the caves of Tiberias. We had lamps with us: when they were dim we knew that it was day, and when they shone brightly we knew that it was night.

In order to make it through long journeys, we must all make lights for ourselves. We cannot always rely on others to provide us with this illumination. Rather, we need to prepare ourselves before we endeavor in the dark. We need to find the skylights, precious stones, and torches in our lives to give us the direction and comfort necessary to weather the storm.