Darkness

Darkness

Darkness (Hoshech)

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.

Start On Your Journey

The first option below is the suggested next step on your journey.  Feel free to browse the following paths and explore in your own time at your own pace.

Ambiance: Forest at Night

Featured photo: "Sunset" by Laurence Louis, via Flickr   Learn about "Dark Nights of the Soul" in the Torah, or teturn to the Gateway of Darkness

Dark Nights of the Soul

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. Jacob (Ya'akov) was left alone....

You Want it Darker, by Leonard Cohen

Enter the darkness of the human experience in the powerful music of Leonard Cohen, of blessed memory, from his last album, interspersed with the Hebrew word, "Hineni," here I am, and words from the Kaddish, "Magnified and Sanctified." Continue to learn about facing...

Enter the Darkness to Greet the Dawn

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. A fairly literal translation of Genesis 1:2 would be: The earth was unformed and void -- and darkness on the face of the...

Song: Evening the Evenings

"Evening the Evenings" by Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael Based on the traditional Evening Prayer   Featured Image: Sunset in Chobe National Park, Botswana, Elisheva Danan Explore the Darkness Before Creation with Rabbi Fern Feldman, or return to the Gateway of...

The Darkness Before Creation

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...

Darkness: A View from Kabbalah

by Rabbi Fern Feldman The Zohar imagines the process of creation as a flowing forth from a deep spring or well. In this image, the source is in the depths, and the flow goes up, (rather than the more common western image of source as up, with the flow going down.)...

The Darkness Before Creation: A Meditation

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. Featured Image: Waipi'o Valley, big island (Hawaii), Elisheva Danan   Learn about...

Redemption in Darkness

by Rabbi David Seidenberg Hanukkah (Chanukah) is about darkness as much as light. Rabbi David Seidenberg teaches about the necessary interaction of the two in a mystical celebration of the holiday: The menorah teaches us about the unity of the light and the dark....

The Bedtime Shema

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...

Dreams

Nightime and sleep bring us to the world of dreams.  If you’re a dreamer (we all are), read on: this post is about you. by Rabbi David Evan Markus “I have a dream.” With these words, dreamer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. propelled the American nation along the arc that...

Tikkun Olam: The Dark Sky 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...

Losing the Dark

“Losing the Dark” is a joint production of the International Dark-Sky Association and Loch Ness Productions. It is available for free use in a variety of formats and languages. Listen to a Nighttime Podcast, or return to the Gateway of Darkness

Nighttime Podcasts

Nighttime can be a good time to turn off screens and snuggle in bed with a good book...or a great podcast. Nocturne is a very creative and thought-provoking podcast about life at night. I don't usually listen to it at night, because it's too interesting! Produced by...

Sharing Circle: Darkness

Enter the Sharing Circle to share your thoughts about Darkness and Night in our tradition and in your own life. Are you a night owl? Do you keep a lot of lights on to avoid the dark, or seek it out? What's your experience with dark skies? Have you ever seen the Milky...