LET THERE BE LIGHT
Rabbi Yossi Lew
After the heavens and the earth were formed, the Torah relates that light was the next entity created. The words seem to be familiar, "And G-d said let there be light, and there was light."
After the heavens and the earth were formed, the Torah relates that light was the next entity created. The words seem to be familiar, "And G-d said let there be light, and there was light." A little later in the Torah portion, during the description of creation on the fourth day, the Torah relates: "And G-d said: Let there be lights in the skies of the heaven, to divide between the day and the night — the greater light to rule the day, and the smaller light to rule the night" (Genesis 1:14-16).
From the above it is clear that the sun and the moon — the "greater" and "lesser" luminaries — were created on the fourth day. If so, what was the function and purpose of the "light" created on the first day? Furthermore, why was it necessary to have light on the first day of creation, when there were no beings to benefit from it?
We must therefore conclude that the nature of the light produced on the first day of creation was different from the light produced by the sun, which was created on the fourth day. Indeed, our sages relate (Zohar Chadash 85a) that the light created on the first day was hidden in the Torah, a strong indication that this "light" is of a spiritual nature.
The following statement of the Midrash can enhance in understanding the purpose of the first day’s light: A king wishing to build a palace does not do so spontaneously but consults architect’s plans. So too, G-d looked into the Torah and created the world. The Midrash is implying that by examining the order in which mankind builds something, we can learn something of the manner in which the Master Builder created the world. A building begins with: a) a vision of what is to be built, b) an architect to draw up plans, and c) builders to construct from the plans a concrete product reflecting the original vision he wanted to build.
The divine purpose and plan for this world is that it should be purified and reintroduced to the pristine and holy light that was created on the first day. Like the Master Planner, Architect and Builder that He is, the holy one made His agenda and vision clear at the onset of the world’s creation — by creating light at the very first opportunity. This plan of light was then placed into the blueprint, or the Torah, to ensure that the created beings would implement the plan and would be focused on completing the building of the world according to the Architect’s blueprint and vision.
In other words, the blueprint, or the Torah, is not only the component through which the Master Builder makes His plan known, but is also necessary for the occupants of the world, so that we can all be made aware of the plan to complete the building of the world. The word "Torah," which literally translates as "instruction," teaches and guides us in our quest to complete the task and complete the building of the world. Furthermore, to the trained eye, the Torah is a true blueprint, as it actually foretells all the events that will happen in the future, as well as those that have already happened. The Torah contains much more information than it may seem to have on the surface.
The following story can illustrate this point: In the late 1700’s, not long after America was established, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad movement, was arrested by the Russian authorities under the truncated charge that he was supporting the "enemy," namely the Jews of the land of Israel, then under the control of the Turks, enemy to Russia. Whilst in prison, a government official had shown the rabbi a recently obtained map of the new country, America. The rabbi remarked that there was a mistake on the map. A short while later, after receiving confirmation of the error in the mail, the official asked the rabbi if he’d ever seen the map before. The rabbi responded, no, but that the first letter in the Torah, the Hebrew letter bet, has a large empty space inside it, in which there is a map of the world, and that’s where he saw the mistake.
By introducing the Torah to the Jewish people, and by asking all the inhabitants of the world to follow the laws laid out for them, it was as if Hashem were saying: Here is the plan; here is the blueprint. The mission, the plan for completing the world, is that the human beings, functioning in the physical world, reveal the inherent goodness and light which exist in the world. This mission is accomplished through the light of the Torah, referred to in the book of Proverbs as, "Torah Ohr — the Torah of light," as it contains the G-dly light that was created on the first day of creation.
That light is now still hidden in the Torah. In the World to Come, after our worldly service has been completed and after the coming of the Mashiach (Messiah), the G-dly light will shine, once again, as it did on the very first day of creation, completing and fulfilling the plan and purpose of the creation of this world, which is: Let there be light!
This article is dedicated to the memory of Zev (Bill) Schatten who dedicated his life to bringing light into the world.
Rabbi Yossi Lew is a rabbi at Congregation Beth Tefillah, director of outreach at Chabad of Georgia, and a teacher at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy middle school.
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