Elul 19: You Are the One by Barbara Rosman Penzner

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Though we might believe that we always want to seek the light, the truth is that sometimes we need a break. I learned this while visiting Iceland in June, when the sun barely sets for three hours a day. While it was great having a longer day—we enjoyed broad daylight at the beach at 11 p.m.–it was not always ideal. The sun was so bright at 3 a.m. that we needed to wear eyeshades at night to get any sleep.

On the other hand, when winter arrives in Iceland, the people live in darkness for all but a few hours during the day. While this might be very depressing, darkness holds its own beauty. At the darkest time of year, you can see the magnificent Northern Lights paint a rainbow of color across the night sky. The Northern Lights are invisible during the summer months.

Day and night, darkness and light are both equally important parts of the cycle of our lives. Without light, we might curl up in despair. Without darkness, our bodies would not have respite to replenish themselves.

I seek God in darkness as well as in light. When times are dark, I pray that God is at my side, guiding my steps, holding me close, assuring me that, as day follows night, this darkness will come to an end. When times are bright, I remember to be grateful and to bring compassion to those whose lives are lived in shadow.

I think Cole Porter said it best: Night and day, you are the One.


Barbara Rosman Penzner is a rabbi serving Reconstructionist Temple Hillel B’nai Torah in Boston, day and night. www.templehbt.org