When creating the world, G-d created two types of light. The first was the radiance of the sun and moon, from which we benefit during the day and night. This light, which allows our eyes to see so that we can physically function in this world, is mentioned during the first blessing of the Shema.
In addition to the physical light, our Sages tell us that Hashem also created a spiritual illumination that allows us to perceive the deeper meaning of Creation and our existence. In order to prevent the forces of evil from misusing this second form of light, Hashem hid it within the Torah. Thus, He assured that only those who study Torah with effort and sincerity can benefit from this spiritual form of light.
Every human being appreciates the physical light of the sun by day and the moon by night. However, if we were to try and understand this world by this physical light alone, it would be impossible to comprehend any order or meaning in our existence. Life would seem to be a series of coincidences, some bad and some good, and none of it would make any sense. The physical light of the sun and moon do not help us comprehend the inherent contradictions of life on Earth.
Only the second type of light, the spiritual light of the Torah, gives us the power to understand the deeper meaning of existence. By the light of Torah we can perceive order in the apparent chaos, and good in the seemingly bad. Guided by scholars who have plumbed the depths of the Torah with hard work and sincerity, our lives become full of significance and illumination. The light of Torah, which is described in the second blessing before Shema, has the power to transport us to a new plane of existence, one that is completely different from that of the rest of humanity.
The two different types of light described in the two blessings before Shema help us recite the Shema. If it were always dark, we would not be able to appreciate the beautiful world that G-d has formed. The first type of physical light described in the first blessing of Shema enables us to see the world and accept Hashem as ruler of all Creation.
However, were it only for this first light, we would not be able to say Shema. The light of the sun and moon alone may only serve to highlight the contradictions of life and make our acceptance of G-d’s absolute dominion through the recitation of Shema more difficult. The spiritual light of the Torah mentioned in the second blessing raises us above these questions and gives us the faith and inner strength to wholeheartedly declare Shema Yisrael. We thereby accept G-d’s sovereignty over the universe even in the darkest times.
The revelation of the light of the Torah is one of Hashem’s greatest expressions of His abundant and eternal love for us. May Hashem illuminate our days and nights with the radiance concealed in the Torah.
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org