Light in the world
On my car radio on Monday afternoon, I heard a rabbi from Pittsburgh interviewed. Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel is the director of a humanitarian agency, the Aleph Institute. He lives and works in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, the site of the latest act of terror and horrific anti-Semitic violence.
In the conversation, Rabbi Vogel spoke honestly and tearfully about his community’s sorrow and fear. Along with authentic grief, he spoke over and over again of the need for more light in the world. “The gut reaction is to hunker down, cover ourselves and not let the outside in. And we’ve got to stand stronger than that. We’ve got to get up, get out into the community and bring more light into this world.”
His words are powerful ones for all of us. In the face of hatred and violence, we have a choice to make. We can choose to hunker down away from others, or we can choose to stand up and move toward others. We can choose to let the poison of hate creep into our hearts, separating us and pulling either inward in fear or outward in anger. Or we can choose to allow the embers of love warm us with hope and spur on actions that build community and foster compassion.
As though the radio were his pulpit, Rabbi Vogel said, “The Talmud teaches us that a small light dispels much darkness, and in times like this, we have to remember that the more light we bring, the more darkness we’re going to dispel, and the better the world is around us.”
Jesus, too, talked about how people can be lights in the world. He taught his followers, “you are the light of the world . . . let your light so shine before others.” We often hear these words as encouragement not to let our God-given talents go to waste. But maybe there’s more to it. Perhaps Jesus was mirroring those words of the Talmud. We can be light to dispel darkness. Our actions and words can weaken the suffocating power of hate. All we need to do is shine our little lights, all around the neighborhood, refusing to hide our brilliance under a bushel.
As people of faith, we can shine into the darkness like nightlights. Or maybe something more public, like streetlights. Or active, like the headlamp on miner’s hardhat. Just imagine the power of hundreds of lights, boldly declaring love and dispelling the darkness of hate. We cannot keep our light to ourselves, buried in fear or dimmed by indifference.
So let’s shine. Standing together to reflect the sacred light of our neighbors and friends attacked because of their faith or skin color or nationality. Choosing kindness. Listening, actually listening, to someone with whom we disagree. Refusing to believe lies based on prejudice and bias. Interrupting speech that dehumanizes. Sharing meals. Voting. Praying and playing and laughing together. It’s simple, really, but these acts have light-bearing power.
Today is All Saints Day, when we remember and give thanks for those saints of God. The lives of those blessed ones are models for us about how to use our lives to bear light into the world, putting our hope and trust in God. As we celebrate this feast day on Sunday, we light candles, remembering those beloved ones whose lives shined like the sun. We light candles trusting that life is stronger than death, goodness stronger than evil, and light more powerful than darkness.