Editor's note: There is a great Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days in the month of Elul to study and prepare for the coming high holy days. The time is supposed to challenge us to use each day as an opportunity for growth and discovery. On each of the 29 days of Elul, performer Craig Taubman posts a "jewel," or story, from some of today's most celebrated visionaries. Past contributors include President Barack Obama, Desmond Tutu, Sarah Lefton, Eli Wiesel, Deepak Chopra, Ruth Messinger and Lady Gaga, among many others. Today's reflection comes from Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President-Elect of the Union for Reform Judaism.
“There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.” --Leonard Cohen
Once again Moses is wearing himself out carrying the burden of the Jewish people on his shoulders. God intervenes by taking some of the spirit that is in Moses and sharing it with others. How can this happen without diminishing Moses? Commenting on Numbers 11:17, Rashi says, “He was like a light that is placed in a candlestick from which everybody lights his lamps, and yet its illuminating power is not diminished.”
I love to seek the light of holiness by studying sacred texts or by sitting in contemplative practice, but the most powerful way to be bathed in light is by serving others.
Giving our light to others might start close to home by helping our neighbors who are struggling mightily during these tough economic times. Our service might move us far from home as well -- to spend our vacation helping out in south Tel Aviv slums or treating patients in one of Haiti’s tent cities.
Against a secular culture that places each individual at the center of the universe, we can choose to be part of something larger than just ourselves. Taking responsibility for others lifts us out of the indulgence and narrowness of self, connecting us to a world of meaning and light. Rebuilding broken lives in the developing world is surely a part of our sacred calling, as is caring for our Jewish elders in Brighton Beach.
In these days of Elul and beyond, we don’t have to go far seeking some extra light; all we have to do is give others some of ours.
Rick Jacobs is the rabbi of Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, N.Y., and the President-Elect of the Union for Reform Judaism.