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Eternal Rays of Light

by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

  

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The Sunset
Several days ago, I sat with my family at the shores of Lake Huron enjoying a picturesque sunset. The sun descended over the water in a spectacular ball of fire and painted the cloudless sky in deep hues of purple and red. Enchanted by the majesty of the moment, my daughter quietly asked, “Will there be a splash when it falls into the lake?”

I explained that the sun wouldn’t actually descend into the lake; it would simply dip below the horizon. Night would fall in Ontario but the sun would continue to shine over provinces and countries due west from us.

Musings of a Child’s Mind
I thought about how difficult it must be for a child to understand such complexity. She saw the sun fall into the lake and as far as she knew, waters extinguish fire. Now she is told that the sun somehow slipped in behind the lake rather than drowned within it!

The second part of my explanation must have been even more perplexing. Night had fallen and we were enveloped by darkness, yet she was told that the sun continued to shine and that skies elsewhere were ablaze with cheerful rays of light!

The allure of materialism coupled with the perils of suffering can temper our love and cause the flames to temporarily recede, but the embers will one day flare up again
At that moment I thought of King Solomon and how he addressed these concerns in a manner that is relevant to our generation. King Solomon wrote that “Great waters cannot extinguish love”1 and that “The sun rises and sets but on the morrow it will rise again.”2

These verses reflect a dual commitment between G-d and us. We pledge our undying love to him and he pledges to protect us at all times.

Water Cannot Extinguish Love
Within every Jewish soul rages a fire of love for G-d. When our conscience is flooded by the riptides of assimilation, these passionate flames are subdued. But deep within our hearts, in chambers heavily concealed, the embers of these flames continue to smolder.

The flood waters of assimilation seem at times to encompass and even extinguish this fire as the lake seemed in my daughter’s eyes to encompass and drown the setting sun—but the sun didn’t drown it was merely concealed. The next day she saw the sun rise again; and when it did its rays glistened upon the lake and inspired a new morning with fresh beauty.

This is what King Solomon meant when he wrote that “Great waters cannot extinguish the love.” The waters of assimilation and the storms of persecution cannot wrest us from our embrace with G-d. The allure of materialism coupled with the perils of suffering can temper our love and cause the flames to temporarily recede, but the embers will one day flare up again and when they do they will bathe our soul in the glow of love.3

The Sun Rises and Sets but on the Morrow it will Rise Again
Our sages explained this verse in reference to Jewish history. Our history comprises a tale of sunrises and sunsets. “Before the sun sets upon one generation it rises upon the next. On the day Sarah passed on, Rebbecca was born. Before the sun set upon Moses, it rose upon Joshua. On the day Rabbi Akiba passed on, Rabbi Yehudah was born.”4

Footnotes

  • 1. Song of Songs 8:7.
  • 2. Ecclesiastics 1:5.
  • 3. Shir Hashirim Rabbah ibid. The Midrash speaks of G-d’s love for the Jewish people. However, Chassidic thought quotes the Kabbalistic explanation brought in the Zohar that this verse relates to the love of Jews for G-d. For further information see Ohr Hatorah p. 16. For a resolution of the apparent conflict between these two interpretations see Sefer Hamamaarim 5717 p. 41.
  • 4. Kohelet Rabbah 1:5. For more information on the characters mentioned in this quote go to http://www.chabad.org/library/archive/LibraryArchive.asp?AID=111828.

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