By Rabbi Daniel Lichman
This Elul, as the High Holy Days draw near, Rabbi Daniel will share a series of weekly reflections with us. Here is the second in the series...
Arise, shine for your light has come! And the glory of the Source of Love has risen on you.
...the prophet calls to you in this week’s haftarah - Isaiah 60:1.
In the springtime weeks of the lockdown, as I became accustomed to a life-only-at-home, I entered a new relationship with sunlight. The movements of time were traced by the movement of the light from the east balcony to the west window. Furniture and cushions transported - ready for those precious moments of sun-on-face/skin joy.
The light-clock changes announced the arrival of the summer and now the autumn.
The prophet invites us into relationship with light - and through light with its shadow: behold darkness shall cover the earth and thick clouds the peoples (60:2)
We learn that the soul of a person is a lamp (Proverbs 20:27).
This is the assertion of the prophet: a relationship with ever-constant yet ever-changing sun out in the world can guide us into relationship with the ever-changing yet ever-constant inner-light-soul.
As the sun is to the world, so our inner-light-soul is to our whole being. The sun is always there - sometimes it is blocked from shining; the inner-light-soul is always there - sometimes it is blocked from shining.
Our practice begins with noticing light - and shadow around us - entering into a curious relationship with it, the glory of the Source of Love which has risen on you.
Outwardly: I observe how the sun illuminates the clouds; how the light on leaves brings forth an infinity of green; and how my shadow dances ambivalently alongside me. I treasure the caress of the early autumn sun on my skin. I notice contrast - now in sunlight, now in shade. Contrasts teaches me to discernment.
Inwardly: my experience of the outer contrast - sunlight/shade - teaches me how to discern - inner contrasts. As I learn to be attentive to the light I learn to discern when the inner light is shining and when it is blocked.
The Elul prophecy declares - your light has come - let us learn this Elul to welcome it.
It is time to study these myriad shadows - that signify that which is in the way:
Can I learn through them what the block is that is casting them?
Can I study my loneliness-shadow likeI look at the white-grey fluff of the cloud?; can I investigate my fear like the green-infinity of the leaves?; can I learn about shame as I watch my own shadow dancing on the ground?
Your sun shall set no more,
Your moon no more withdraw;
For the Source of Love shall be a light to you forever,
And your days of mourning shall be ended.
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