In Sefer Tehillim (119:130) David Ha’melech says, “The introduction ofYour words illuminates.” The Midrash in Sefer Shemos explains that thispasuk refers to the opening words of the Torah, “In the beginning G-dcreated.” Light preceded all of the rest of Creation. Similarly, the AronHaKodesh, which housed the Torah, also called ohr, light, preceded the othervessels of the Mishkan. Light must precede every other creation; in fact, it mustprecede everything. The ability to see clearly, to understand the basic foundationof knowledge, is a prerequisite for an undistorted view of life. Clarity of visionis the framework upon which all understanding is based.
How many people grope through life due to their inability to see clearly– either because they cannot see, or because they refuse to open their eyes?There are also others who do see, but with colored glasses. Thus, theirperspective is distorted. When Hashem created the world, He first looked at theTorah, which preceded Creation. This is a lesson for us; in order to understandthe story of Creation, to maintain an accurate perspective on life and theworkings of this world; one must look through the lens of the Torah. Itilluminates the path toward understanding.
Even in the construction of the Mishkan, the Torah came first. Withoutthe Torah’s guidance, many aspects of this most hallowed edifice, its functionand service, might interfere with our ability to understand cogently. The Torahilluminates its intricacies, giving meaning to its challenges. Suddenly,everything makes sense. It is all a matter of perspective – a perspective whichwe should develop through the lens of the Torah.
Seeing is believing. One looks at the Tzitzis and is inspired to mitzvahobservance. How? He does not only look with his eyes. He looks with his mindand with his heart. Above all, he looks through the eyes of the Torah whichgrants him a unique insight into what otherwise might appear to be mere strings.Throughout the Torah, the individual finds an illuminated version of this vision:The Tzitzis with the techeilis, light blue thread, reminding him of the sea, which– in turn – reminds him of Heaven, catalyzing a vision of Hashem and Hismitzvos. All of this is the result of seeing properly through the illuminated visionwhich the Torah provides. If the lens is not perfected by the Torah, one’s vision is distorted.
At the end of Sefer Devarim, the people are told, “See – I have placedbefore you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil… And youshould choose life” (30:15,19). What fool would not choose life? Why wouldanyone eschew blessing? Why choose evil over a life of goodness? It is becausehe is missing the key element in this exhortation: “see!” If one does not see thegood and the life, how well can he possibly choose? Even worse are those whorefuse to look. They are afraid of what they might “see.”
Yet, a problem has surfaced. Amidst the light that Hashem createdthere were patches of darkness, to the point that light and darkness functioned“in a mixture.” Hashem felt it necessary to distinguish between the light and thedarkness, and He separated one from the other. The Midrash goes a bit further inan explanation of these creations and their separation. “And the earth wasastonishingly empty, with darkness upon the surface of the deep” (Bereishis1:2). This darkness is a reference to the actions of the righteous. “Hashemseparated between the light and the darkness” (Ibid. 1:4). The Almightydistinguished between the actions of the righteous and the actions of the wicked.Apparently, this separation could only come about through acts of Hashem.Only He in His infinite wisdom could delineate between the light of therighteous and the darkness of the wicked. Why? Anybody who can see shouldbe able to perceive this separation.
Horav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, zl, explains that Vayehi erev, “And therewas evening” (1:5), refers to the maasei reshaim, actions of the wicked. Theword erev, evening, has a different connotation than we might imagine. In orderfor it to be considered erev, it does not have to be pitch-black outside. In fact,the Torah instructs us to slaughter the Korban Pesach ba’erev, “Slaughter thePesach-offering in the afternoon” (Devarim 16:6). As soon as the sun begins toturn towards the west, even though it is in the middle of the sky shining brightly,it already has the halachic status of erev. Likewise, the term boker, morning,occurs one moment after alos ha’shachar, the morning star has risen in the sky.It is still dark outside. It is a time when it is almost impossible to distinguishbetween the colors of blue and white – and certainly impossible to delineatebetween various hues of blue. Yet, it is boker; it is light!
We now understand why Hashem had to distinguish between ohr andchoshech. Light and darkness are not necessarily perceptible to the untrainedeye. It takes a special “lens,” the lens of Torah, to see the true colors and eventhe true shades of each color before a decision can be made regarding theintegrity of one’s spiritual leanings. We think, we see, but – without thecorrective lenses – our vision remains impaired.