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Vayigash 2022

Rabbi Robin Nafshi

A story is told: In a mountain village in Europe a few centuries ago, there was a nobleman who was concerned about the legacy he would leave to the people of his town. The man spent a great deal of time contemplating his dilemma, and at last, decided to build a synagogue. In the course of his planning, he decided that no one would see the plans for the building until it was finished. The construction took quite a long time – much longer than he anticipated.

But at long last, the project was completed. The townspeople were excited and curious about what they would find upon entering their new synagogue. When the people came for the first time, they marveled at the synagogue’s magnificence. No one could ever remember so beautiful a synagogue anywhere in the world.  

Then, noticing a seemingly obvious flaw in the design, one of the townspeople asked, “Where are the lamps? What will provide the lighting?”  

The proud nobleman pointed to brackets, which were strategically placed all along the walls throughout the synagogue. He then gave each family a lamp as he explained, “Whenever you come to the synagogue, I want you to bring your lamp, and light it. But, each time you are not here,” he said, “a part of the synagogue will be dark. This lamp will remind you that whenever you are absent, some part of God’s house will be dark. Your community is relying on you for light.” 

Here we are, only nine days since the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. It’s been less than a week since Chanukah ended. This story is a metaphor for how we bring light into the world, particularly at dark times. And much in our world is quite dark right now.

Acts of antisemitism rose significantly this year. Prime Minister Netanyahu has seated the most racist and intolerant coalition government in Israel’s history. 

COVID is rising again across the globe, with over 5,000 people dying each day in China, and Merrimack County raising its risk level from low to medium.  

The Gun Violence Archive counts 644 mass shootings in the country so far this year. The worst, of course, was the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24. It happened ten days after the shooting in the Buffalo supermarket. Last month added the attack at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., and the shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs. 

I could go on and on to offer more example of darkness, but let’s instead focus on light. We are told that the Jews are an or l’goyim, a light to the nations. Let’s fulfill those words through our words and deeds. Reach out to someone who has recently suffered the death of a loved one. Visit or call someone who is ill. Donate to one of TBJ’s three mitzvah drives – take a look at the weekly email for details. Volunteer with any number of TBJ’s social action opportunities – the monthly Friendly Kitchen crew, the Family Promise effort, helping with refugee families, and much more. Be the light. It’s far more effective than living in, dwelling on, or perpetuating the darkness. 

Shabbat shalom and happy secular new year.

Thu, February 29 2024 20 Adar I 5784