Darkness to Light

Before dawn that Sunday, Jerry Westfield and his two excited boys boarded their runabout at Ala Wai Harbor. Stowing the fishing gear along with their lunch, Jerry yanked the cord and started the Evinrude while his sons tossed the mooring lines onto the dock.

The black sky turned to cloudless cobalt as they slipped out to sea, past the enormous gray hulls of the battleships lying quietly at anchor. It was going to be a glorious day of fishing, and their spirits rose along with the sun. The fish were already biting, and the glinting windows of distant Waikiki Beach hotels seemed to be applauding their prowess. All was well until eight o’clock that morning, December 7th 1941.

To remind oneself of how quickly circumstances can deteriorate, one doesn’t need to reflect back seventy years. A little over ten years ago, on a sunny Tuesday morning in September, the lives of every American changed for the worse. On a personal level, most of us can identify a moment in our lives that dashed our dreams.

Whenever pain intrudes into our lives, our first reaction is usually gloom and despair. However, we also enjoy moments that light up the darkness, catapulting our souls from despondency to joy. Because we were created to be happy, even small things can trigger delight though we might still be suffering pain.

Few things banish my personal storm clouds as effectively as a rainbow. When that miraculous interplay of light and water arcs its colorful way across the heavens, I break into a grin regardless of any melancholy I might be feeling. This verse always resonates with me:

I have placed my rainbow in the cloud and it shall be a

sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

(Genesis 9:13)

Actually, every interplay of light and water cheers me. The silvery sheen of a lazy river; a waterfall on a bright day and sunshine sparkling off the ocean’s whitecaps all work wonders for me.

I don’t think I’m alone in finding my spirits lifted by water and light. This might be one reason people flock to beaches, lakes, and rivers for their vacations; also why the fabled Strip in Vegas is kept so bright at night that it can be seen from space.

Why is this spiritual uplift caused by water and light rather than, say, peanut butter and pickles? Water and light are the 21st and 25th Hebrew words in Genesis respectively. Until they appear all we read about are heaven and earth, chaos and darkness. Then God’s spirit appears on the water and God creates light.

Scripture uses the same Hebrew word for “light” as it does for one form of water, a river. That Hebrew word is NaHaR.

Then you shall see and be filled with light {NaHaRt}

(Isaiah 60:5)

They looked at him and were lit up {NaHaRu}

(Psalms 34:6)

A river {NaHaR} flowed out of Eden…

(Genesis 2:10)

By the rivers {NaHaRot} of Babylon, there we sat and cried…

(Psalms 137:1)

Water and light are linked both by Creation and by the Lord’s language. This parallelism reflects the reality that in both water and light we can see particles and waves, and both water and light carry energy. In ancient Jewish wisdom, both water and light represent God’s word. When dark times drag us down, water and light revive us.

It is thus no surprise that this month in the Jewish calendar, Kislev, is symbolized by the rainbow, a phenomenon caused by the interaction of water and light. Now that days are short and nights are long, as well as in our own personal dark times, we draw on God’s gift to us, Creation’s primeval energy.

Boosting our spirits banishes paralysis and procrastination and unleashes our creative energies. This is a major theme of the holiday of Chanuka which encourages partnering with God to overcome human limitations such as age, economic, and material scarcity. We share this message and guidance in our Chanuka-themed audio CD, Festival of Lights. It is half-priced this week for online orders, making it an inexpensive, value-packed way to brighten up lives. We prepared this audio CD program as an effective antidote for times when hope seems extinguished.

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