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What Lurks in the Shadows

Last week I wrote about the need for light in times that are dark and the power that even a little bit has. Today I want to delve into the darkness itself. Darkness gets a bad rap and rightfully so. In our culture we spend a lot of energy denying its existence or at least resisting its presence in our lives. The pursuit of happiness and success are what we want to focus our time and energies on.

Not so in Judaism, one of the first verses of the Torah tells us of the creation of darkness by G-d on the same day as the light was. What does darkness have to teach us? How do we embrace its part in our lives without succumbing to it?

All of us contain Light and Darkness. Our essence is light, our soul which is infinite, ever present and powerful. Our darkness is our shadow side and it contains all of our struggles, our pain and our shame. These are not comfortable places to be and it is easy to understand that we don't want to engage with them. So why do they need to exist at all? It must have its own essence.

Darkness is here to tell us that all of our experiences contain God within them. Not only the ones that we associate with light; like spirituality and goodness but also the ones that are so dark. When we don't even see a glimmer of hope or goodness in them. Engaging with light is easy. Light exposes truth and brings clarity. It's an enjoyable place to be. Darkness covers up; it hides and denies and makes us believe that none of this is worth it. It's far more difficult to see beyond the facade of darkness and acknowledge that yes even here G-d exists. And although darkness will fight till its death to maintain its claim, once we see it for what it really is it, it loses its power over us.

My name Shternie comes from the Yiddish words Shtern, which means star. I never really liked my name, mostly because nobody could pronounce or spell it correctly. I also didn't feel any connection to it. A few years ago I was reflecting on my name; on the stars. I thought about darkness being the backdrop of a star's light and just as necessary. I felt the truth of this telling me that I needed to start embracing my darkness as well. For it would be the backdrop of my being able to truly express myself and shine my light in this world.

We will enter the holiday of Chanukah on Sunday night; a time of joy and festivity. Let's to kindle the Chanukah lights, adding one more each night. As we sit in their glow, we can use the opportunity to embrace our darkness as well. To welcome it into our experiences, to face our pain and our shadows. To recognize that in truth the light and dark are one and the same. To know that that once we know this deeply, we can walk through life without fear. I hope for the time when darkness will lose its facade.

I wish you a very Happy Chanukah,


P.S. Two of my favorite readings on this topic are

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