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Light after the Darkness: Remarks by Rabbi Shapiro on Friday, November 4, 2011…
AFTER the snow storm and before lighting the Shabbat Candles

The light strikes you first.  Then the colors – how bright they are, how vivid…red, orange, green, blue.

Many years ago when the Soviet Union still existed and when the Jews of the Soviet Union were fighting for freedom and desperate for visitors, I visited the Soviet Union for ten days in the winter.

Ironically, one of my strongest memories has to do with the evening I left the Soviet Union. Because of a snow storm, my plane was forced to land in Helsinki. As a result, I ended up returning to the West by spending a night in Helsinki.

That’s what I had in mind when I said… The light strikes you first.  Then the colors – how bright they are, how vivid…red, orange, green, blue.

What I remember most about that first night in freedom was the contrast with the Soviet Union.

From a cold, dark, drab, colorless world, I suddenly found myself in Finland where there was life, fresh flowers for sale and crowds of people happily conducting the business of life.

Most of all, there was light and it was stunning!

I thought about that experience of light and life in Finland after power returned to the Shapiro household Thursday morning and I set out for the Big Y to restock our kitchen.

Those five nights without heat and light. They were an experience unto themselves – as all of you know. Without any electricity…with only the light of candles and some flashlights…the word dark took on new meaning. Dark was palpable. Dark was like a blanket all around. It literally enveloped you.

And then I ventured into the Big Y where I was surrounded by light, fruits and vegetables, colors, and activity. It was stunning, almost overwhelming.

Flick a switch and suddenly there was plenty. Without missing a beat, it seemed as if Big Y could fix it all, feed us all, and make everything all right.

How good it felt. How relieved I was.

But not too quickly. Not so quickly that I forget how fragile our blessings are. How fragile we humans really are against the forces of nature.

No wonder God’s first creation was light. (See Genesis Chapter One.) Light is the force that virtually gives or at least allow for life to survive and thrive.

So tonight, as is Sinai’s custom, we open our service with candles. We light Shabbat candles to give thanks for Shabbat, to give thanks for our tradition, and, especially this week, we light candles to give thanks for light itself.

Sweet, gentle, fragile, warm flames.

May God bless us with Shabbat joy.

May God bless us with Shabbat holiness.

May God bless with Shabbat peace.

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