Tiny sparks of light

by | Oct 28, 2023

Day 22 – Shabbat

It’s shabbat morning. The resort, which is filled to capacity with evacuees from the North, doesn’t appear to have organized a morning prayer service. My husband trots off to the designated “synagogue” to go see if there is anyone praying there. He decided that even if there isn’t an actual service, that he would do his Shabbat morning prayers there, as there is a concept in Judaism that certain places have an inherent holiness to them, and a place where there is a Torah scroll, or where people have regularly had prayer services, is one of those inherently holy places. Besides, as lovely as our bungalow is, it’s very small and I’d be in his way, and probably a distraction. While he’s at the synagogue, I grab a cup of cold tea and go sit at the table in front of the bungalow to meditate. I’d like to call it prayer, but most of the time it’s more of a one-sided conversation. We are really very fortunate as our bungalow faces the water, so sitting there is definitely a spiritual experience. As I sit there, admiring the beauty and the deceptive peacefulness of the lake, I start my conversation with the Creator of it all. “Why, oh why, did You create humanity with the capability of such evil?”

This time, I actually feel like I got an answer. Although considering that it feels a bit cliche, I can’t be sure it came from a Divine source. Still, it gives me food for thought. The answer I got back was that we couldn’t truly appreciate the good unless we understood the depths of evil that humanity is capable of. When we understand just exactly how dark it can get, we begin to have an appreciation for even the tiniest light. As I looked around the dining room – on shabbat – full of men and women, young and old, some bent over from the toll many years have taken on them, and some so young they don’t yet walk, I realized that God was telling me to see how incredible their goodness is. These people don’t observe shabbat – many out of an educated choice and not out of ignorance. They don’t dress modestly, we don’t even know if they keep kosher. But what we do know is that they are good people. Not perfect people – no one is – but good people. People who greet the Arab hotel staff with a “good morning” and a thank you after they bring clean towels or collect the trash. People who would never think of deliberately harming another person. These people are good people. Their light may or may not be as bright as the light of others, but we must learn to see their light, and to acknowledge that as small as their light may be, it is incredibly brighter than the darkest darkness that humanity is capable of. And every day they choose to be light instead of darkness.

Over the 17 years that I have lived in Israel, this has been my biggest lesson. I’ve learned to stop judging people by what I see on the outside. I’ve learned that “religious” doesn’t always look like what I’ve been taught it does. That holiness comes in many different packages, and that light is beautiful no matter what color it is or how small the flame. I’ve learned that often the ones who go all out to look pious are compensating for their lack of piety, while the ones who outwardly display no signs of faith whatsoever, are sometimes the most connected and full-of-faith people on the planet.

My husband returns from the synagogue where he met up with 2 other men. They didn’t have the required 10 men for a minyan, but at least he wasn’t completely alone. We head over to the dining hall for breakfast. After getting my food and sitting down at the table, I take a moment to not only be grateful for the food, and my incredible husband, but for the opportunity to look around the room and see all the sparks of light. Some smaller, some bigger, but all light.

After breakfast, we take a walk near the water before returning to the bungalow. The rest of the day is quiet and full of the two of us eating, talking, playing, and reading. And a nap. One of my favorite things about Shabbat is the nap. I don’t always actually sleep, but I lie down and relax – something I don’t get to do during the week. Oh and the occasional checking of the laptop screen.

Each week on Friday right before Shabbat, in addition to changing the settings on my phone so I will know if our regional council has issued a danger warning, I also set my laptop to the Homefront Command English page. There’s nothing being broadcast, but every time there’s a siren, a screen pops up telling you where it is and what exactly is happening. I don’t know how necessary this actually is – I hope I never truly know – but it makes me feel more aware of what’s going on around me, and that offers a small comfort. One of the contributing factors to the extremity of the situation on October 7th was the complete surprise. No one was prepared. I don’t know that my having this screen up is going to somehow keep me safe, but safety is an illusion anyway. I’ll take it.

When Shabbat is over, we do havdalah (the end of Shabbat ceremony) and go have dinner at the dining hall. I would have liked to go out to a nice restaurant, but my search online is showing me that most of the kosher restaurants a reasonable distance away aren’t open on Saturday night. And when I picked up my phone after Shabbat went out, I saw that there were infiltration alerts in communities very near the resort. I decided that as much as I would have loved to eat out at a nice restaurant, I didn’t want to be driving around in a place we weren’t familiar with, looking for a place to eat while there were possible terrorists on the loose. So, the dining hall it is.

The dining hall is full of people and loud. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like loud. But I stop myself and think about how if you put enough tiny lights together, you can still light a room. Look at all the tiny sparks of light – how privileged I am to be among them. Individually we are small. Individually we may look insignificant, but all together, we are bright, and we have the power to dispel the darkness.

Written by Penina Taylor

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