Let There Be Light

IMG_20140520_075050Rabbi Efraim’s home office, with Aviva yesterday.

God said, Let there be light. And there was light, and God saw that it was good and called this Day.

What could it mean, we pondered, like college students in the wee hours, that there was light before there was the a sun, that forgiveness existed before The Beginning, and that what we say and put out there through word and intention, vision and action, actually creates things, brings them into being?

And maybe, Aviva mused, God was actually Thomas Edison.

And then the rabbi did that thing he does, the thing that makes him such an extraordinary teacher: He went with it.

You know, he began, I have a story to tell you about Thomas Edison. A story, it turned out, that related in unexpected ways to the B’reshit, the first chapter of Genesis, which will be V’s Torah portion for her bat mitzvah in 2015.

Thomas Edison famously tried 9,999 things before inventing the light bulb as we know it.  The rabbi talked about how, if Edison had become discouraged on the first or second or fiftieth or five-thousandth try, he never would’ve reached the thing he’d become known for, a thing that changed our world forever. “Well,” the unstoppable inventor is said to have exclaimed, “at least we know 8,000 things that don’t work!”

It’d be like never doing another show, I told V, just because you didn’t get a lead this time. And nobody tends to hear much if anything about all the attempts we dub failures but that Edison would deem learning-what-doesn’t-work, all the books before the bestseller, all the rejections and denials, the setbacks and disappointments we walk into and then past on our way.

The three of us kept following this thread for a while. I pointed out how after God made light and named it Day, that was all there was. How cool, really, to imagine: This thing called Day that we now experience as a given, a container for all the other things, came before even the sun and the moon!

This is the part where Aviva revealed just how well she knows me. Well, she said, in her most dramatic imitating-me voice, SOME people go around in the morning saying: It’s a brand new day! Let’s begin again! We get to start over! (I swear, I’m not THAT chirpy. At least not before my second cup of coffee.)

But really. There was something called light before there was something called sun. T’shuvaha vast, unfathomable nothingness, forgiveness–existed before God even made an appearance. Who or what created this? Where and what was it? How can something exists before anything exists? These are not questions to answer. But when I take a deep breath and don’t think, it’s intuitive. Even if anyone had been around to experience that first light, God didn’t have to explain it. It simply was.

It’s not ours to make sense of creation but to experience it. Each morning, before the sun comes up, something simultaneously literal and mysterious occurs, just below the horizon we can see, invisible yet permeating.

This is where ideas are born, where faith is restored, and where I lay down my doubts before beginning again.

Day–that thing that first existed by itself–is filled with trees and transports and a warm breeze and ferns along wooded pathways, with colleagues and kids and dishes and dashed hopes and dreams. Between their hidden meanings and what meets the eye–this is where I live. I don’t even have to close my eyes to see the future.

It was a great idea, light. A brilliance. To bring into being that which holds our experience so fully, has all the time in this world we inhabit, to say the words of what we would have come next, all the while dwelling in the only place we can: Right here and now.

God said let there be light and there was light, and it might actually have been God’s ten-thousandth try. We will never know.

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