What is God – Part 8 – God as Light

see below for links to parts 1-7

I grew up with the Gates of Prayer as my siddur.  That is, when I started being serious about being a Jew, in the 1980’s and 1990’s, that compact blue book from 1975 was what we used at Temple Sholom, and it remains my image of a prayer book.

In it, I found a wealth of metaphors to educate my search for understanding God, as in this meditation:

“And God said: ‘Let there be light.’  This first light God made before he made the sun and stars.  He showed it to David, who burst into song.  This was the light that Moses saw on Sinai!  But . . . this light, coming out of darkness and formed by the Most Secret, is hidden: ‘Light is sown for the righteous.’”

A few pages later, in another meditation:

“Each os us is a battleground for the struggle of sacred with profane.  At times the profane seems to win the day.  Love and truth are debased.  Reason, our chief glory, is turned to evil ends. . . .  We seek you, O God: thereby we grow in vision, as we elevate our souls beyond the sordid to the sacred.  Your presence is the light piercing the darkness on our way, lighting our steps, making us see beauty and worth in all human beings.”

These metaphors of Light speak to me.  God as a Spark, as a Flame, as the Maker of light, as a Glow in the heart.  They capture, poetically, an important aspect of holiness, the intrusion of transcendent mystery into my experience.  Without transcendent spirituality, my world is darker, more foreboding, plain, colorless, bland.  Yet, I know that there are “points of light,” people of courage and good will who live lives of meaning, inconsistent with that bleak terrain.  I strive to be on of those people, as I am sure you do, too.  God, as the Source of light, illuminates that pat

As we lie in bed at night, wondering whether or not the day that just passed was filled with holiness or a fool’s errand, the hashkiveinu prayer offers us comfort, peace, as translated on the same page of the Gates of Prayer we quoted from above:

“With hope, therefore, we pray for light within: O God, reveal Yourself; hide no more; let Your face shine on all who seek You.  Eternal and infinite God, banish our darkness!  Be present to us as the sudden light that lifts the heart and brings us joy.”

This is a central concept in spreading a message of spirituality.  If you have never noticed “that sudden light that lifts the heart,” then nothing about religion will make sense.  But if you have, then all you need do is choose to believe that that moment is, itself, significant, not just a biochemical blip in your brain.  God is the word I use to label those moments as meaningful, a name for the Light that allows me, even in my darkest times, to “see beauty and worth in all human beings.”

Dan Swartzman has been teaching in our Adult Education program for many years.  Dan is a professor at UIC, where he teaches ethics, law and nonprofit management.  He and his family have been members of Temple Sholom for 23 years.

For part 1 go to http://www.sholomchicago.org/2013/05/07/what-is-god-part-1/
For part 2 go to http://www.sholomchicago.org/2013/05/30/what-is-god-part-2-is-god-a-person/
For part 3 go to http://www.sholomchicago.org/2013/06/14/what-is-god-part-3-god-as-a-metaphor/
For part 4 go to http://www.sholomchicago.org/2013/06/28/what-is-god-part-4-creator/
For Part 5 go to http://www.sholomchicago.org/2013/07/12/what-is-god-part-5-you-are-holy-because-god-is-holy/
For part 6 go to http://www.sholomchicago.org/2013/07/19/what-is-god-part-6-god-as-a-metaphorical-helper/
For part 7 go to: http://www.sholomchicago.org/2013/07/26/what-is-god-part-7-god-as-rulemaker/