The first words of the Torah are, “In the beginning, Hashem created the heaven and the earth.” We should understand that “heaven” here does not mean the sky, but rather all things spiritual, while “earth” denotes the realm of the material and finite.
The Torah continues, “And the earth was chaotic and void, with darkness on the face of the deep.” Hashem created this earth, this material plane, with the same holiness as the heavens, and it has all the potential to be a heaven. It is brimming with spiritual potential; however, these sparks of holiness are hidden by the earth’s beginnings of chaos, darkness and a sense of void.
The greater plan of our Creator is for humans to unlock this heavenly potential by creating spirituality here on earth. Thus the next verses read, “Hashem said, Let there be light,’ and light came into existence. Hashem saw that the light was good.” We humans are the creations who can become partners in the growth of our world. It is our role to bring light, that essence described by Hashem as good, into what would otherwise remain dark. How can we do this? By doing heavenly things.
This is why the Torah starts with the depiction of the world’s creation. We are meant to realize what this world could be and how we can go about developing it. The tragedy is that mankind lets itself down, and we find ourselves falling into deeper and darker chaos. One would think that given all we have seen and experienced, we would have attained a bit of hard- earned self-knowledge by now. Man could have brought so much light into this world, yet in many ways, things are darker and more dangerous than ever before.
We are taught that every person is a world unto himself. We, too, are a mixture of light and chaos. If we could only create more light within ourselves, perhaps the world out there would benefit as well. The road that leads to the ultimate redemption will be built by the good and thoughtful fulfillment of Hashem’s Torah. Yidden who work on creating light within their own souls fashion brilliance through their mitzvos and are thus full partners in that redemption. The way to eliminate chaos in this world starts with small acts of everyday heroism.
This doesn’t mean one has to perform earth-shattering undertakings that will find themselves researched and lauded over in the local papers. Real heroism begins with having the courage to take responsibility for one’s actions or at least to own up to them. The ability to accept oneself as one really is, and to strive to use one’s full potential, is a huge leap of light-producing energy. In a world clouded by darkness, where everyone is bogged down by the daily grind, standing up and striving to give oneself and others an uplifting feeling is an act of enormous strength. Believing that you have the ability to do such good, to feel that your acts make a difference, is a first and vital step toward the hope of a world full of Hashem’s light.
In this kapitel, we see how imperative such steps are. It was written by Korach’s children, no strangers to the void and darkness of chaos. God, with our ears we have heard, our fathers have told us about the deeds You did in their days, in days of old. The “deeds” spoken of here are the miraculous events surrounding the exodus from Egypt and our entry into Eretz Yisrael. Why, though, do Korach’s sons speak of hearing all this with their own ears if they lived through these incidents themselves? Perhaps they speak of the mixed signals they heard and witnessed through their father’s rebellion on the one hand and Moshe Rabbeinu’s humble yet glowing leadership on the other. They are indicating that there is a human type of tug-of-war, and it is important for each generation to learn from the previous one’s failures.
You, with Your hand, drove out the nations and implanted them. You smashed peoples and drove them away. When the Yidden entered Eretz Yisrael, they were on the highest spiritual level. They had seen so much and purged themselves of the Egyptian darkness. With this strength, they merited living in the Holy Land. They were “implanted” in a unique place on earth that was created to be the spiritual center of the world.
For not by their own sword did our forefathers inherit the land, nor did their own arm save them, but Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your countenance because You favored them. We can never be perfect; after all, we are but human and frail. However, if we try our utmost, Hashem will save us with His arm His strength and will vanquish those who desire to spread gloom. To dispel darkness, one must ignite a source of light, and that is the true “countenance” of Hashem.
You are my King, God. Command Yaakov’s salvation! The children of Yaakov realize that true deliverance will come for Yaakov’s offspring only through Hashem’s command.
Through You, we have gored our adversaries. With Your name, we have trampled our opponents. The chaos induced in this world sets those who dwell in the shadows against the light-seekers the Jewish people. This happens at many different levels. In the wider scheme of things, one need go no further than current events and the history that led up to them. However, these adversaries dwell within each of our hearts as well. There are so many points in our inner selves that cry from the injustices we suffer. If we but focus ourselves on a willingness to dispel this pain through doing Hashem’s good, all these points will shrink into nothingness. As the light suffuses our lives, those dark corners will be shamed into non-existence.
In God, we glory all the day, and Your name we thank forever selah. Yidden are called on to accept that it is Hashem Who brings real glory into this muddled world. This has been our blessing throughout our history. Like a stone set in the earth, it is unchanging and forever. Only when we allow ourselves to become deflected from this truism do we fall back into the chaos of the mundane, the anarchy of the broken-hearted.
The kapitel goes on to describe in terse and cutting words how we as a people have become lost and plundered. All day long, my humiliation is before me, and I am covered in shame. This comes about when we lose sight of our true calling. When we veer from Hashem’s path, our enemies at every level gain power.
One could become distraught, giving up all hope, but the kapitel brings renewed trust. All this came upon us still, we did not forget You or deal falsely with Your covenant. Yidden have fallen, but the pintela Yid is still left aflame. This is what gives us positive expectations for tomorrow. We have never lost sight of our true direction. Only the chaos around us blinds us with total despair. Although this has happened, the ner tamid, the eternal flame in our hearts, always remains alive. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our footsteps turned away from Your path.
The psalm tells further of the ebb and flow of Jewish life in galus, the dispersion of the people as well as the individual. We cry out from our lowest place, yet the cry is always to Hashem, and that will bring our true redemption. For our soul is bowed down to the dust, our stomach clings to the earth. Arise to our aid and redeem us for the sake of Your kindness!
The earth was created to be as holy as the heavens above. No matter how evil mankind acts, no matter how deep the gloom that pervades its surface, we Yidden will arise through Hashem’s redemption and bring forth, with the Torah’s guidance, true light.
Text Copyright © 2008 by Torah.org.