DarknessHoshech • חושך
We tend to equate light with good and darkness with bad. But darkness is the inseparable partner of light; indeed, we cannot see one without the other. Our modern world is lit up 24 hours a day; even when we turn off the lights at bedtime, our homes glow with blinking lights from our various electronic devices. We need dark nights as much as sunny days, to maintain our circadian rhythms, allow us rest and promote our health.
On a spiritual level, we may fear darkness because it symbolizes times of struggle or even despair. Yet we know from life experience that it is often those dark times of life that forge our greatest growth.
Conversely, darkness may be a gift, inviting us to restfulness, inwardness, intimacy. Natural beauty, art, and aesthetics require a balance of light and shadow. Modern theologians of many faiths are recognizing that darkness is just as necessary to our growth as light.
God “forms light and creates darkness” (Isaiah 45:7, quoted in the traditional Jewish morning prayers). Indeed, according to the Torah’s account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis, darkness exists before light is created. There is evening before there is morning, and so all Jewish holy days begin with sunset and not with sunrise.
So head out into the night and explore this Gateway of Darkness to explore the symbolism of darkness and night in Jewish Tradition and in your own life.
Many pivotal biblical encounters with the Divine take place during the darkness of night, when dreams, blessings and visions are imparted. and one of the most important is when our forefather Jacob wrestles with a mysterious stranger.
Can we face the darkness of our own depths? Individuals and societies who can’t face their own shadow side will often project it on others.
When I explore my own nature, or experience the sacred, most often I feel a deepening into darkness. Although dominating theologies create binaries, in which light is good and darkness is evil, when we recognize the multivalent nature of all that is, we see wave upon wave of dark and light.
by Rabbi Fern Feldman
In this guided meditation, Rabbi Fern Feldman takes you on a short journey back through the creation story to be held in the dark waters, and hear what wisdom you may find there.
Bedtime Shema songs by Jordan Franzel and Lisa Tzur. Adapted from the Sh’ma for Bedtime in the Siddur, the Jewish Prayer Book, this composition was written in Jerusalem for the URJ Eisner Camp of Great Barrington, MA. It was published in the Shireinu series, the songbook for the Reform Movement.
For three billion years, life on Earth existed in a rhythm of light and dark that was created solely by the illumination of the Sun, Moon and stars. Now, artificial lights overpower the darkness and our cities glow at night, disrupting the natural day-night pattern and shifting the delicate balance of our environment. The negative effects of the loss of this inspirational natural resource might seem intangible. But a growing body of evidence links the brightening night sky directly to measurable negative impacts . . .
Enter the Sharing Circle to share your thoughts about Darkness and Night in our tradition and in your own life.