There are many Jewish mystical concepts and doctrines that center on the metaphor of light. Classic Kabbalistic works often have names that focus on light, such as Sefer Ha-Bahir (the Book of Brightness) or the Zohar (the Brilliance). Ohr Ein Sof (Infinite, “Never-ending” Light) is the name for the divine light that emanated from the Ein Sof (the Infinite Godhead) at creation.

In the Kabbalah of Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572), creation is depicted in a way reminiscent of the Big Bang theory of modern cosmology. According to his teachings, God performed tsimtsum (contraction) within the endless divine Light to make a space in which creation would occur. Then God sent a ray of God’s light into that space to fill the vessels of creation. But the light was so powerful that it shattered some of the vessels and they broke, leaving sparks that are still trapped in the material world, waiting to be elevated to their divine source through mitzvot performed with true intention.  Our task is to be God’s partners in raising up those sparks to their divine Source. (This is part of the mystical meaning of Tikkun Olamwhich today we use primarily to refer to Social Action.)

כִּי עִמְּךָ מְקוֹר חַיִּים בְּאוֹרְךָ נִרְאֶה אוֹר

For with You is the fountain of life, by Your light do we see light/ (Psalm 36:10)

Featured Image: “A Hole in the Sky,” by Bo Nielson,, via Flickr

Continue to learn about Shabbat candle-lighting, or return to the Gateway of Light