Dear reader,

I was driving the other evening. It wasn’t late, but due to the short daylight hours, it was dark. Very dark. And the street was winding.

Only discernible within the cloak of blackness were short, shining red lines in front of me, and from across the median, small white circles. All these little blotches of red and white kept marching forward, in sync, almost as if they had their own volition.

Only up close did it become obvious that these shining traveling lights were actually affixed to vehicles—cars, trucks and vans.

And then the irony of those little traveling lights hit me.

Strong chunks of heavy metal—now transportation vehicles—were equipped with the technological capability of traversing great distances at rapid speeds. If these sturdy chunks of metal would collide, they could wreak havoc, even death.

And yet we rely on basic, simple lights—red ones in the rear of the car, and white headlights leading the way in front—to guide these tough, powerful transporters. The simple, soft lights effectively warn away vehicles from coming too close, while also illuminating the path.

Just basic, effervescent lights.

This week we celebrate the 19th of Kislev, which is considered the “Rosh Hashanah of Chassidism.” On this date in 1798 the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, known as the Alter Rebbe, was freed from imprisonment in czarist Russia, heralding a new era in the revelation of the “inner soul” of Torah.

The Tanya, the foundational text written by the Alter Rebbe, is largely devoted to discussing a battle that is constantly waged by every individual. It is an internal fight between our “G‑dly soul” and our “animal soul.”

We encounter this clash hundreds of times a day in the myriad choices we make between good and bad. It is our lifelong struggle between transcendence and selfishness, between refinement and coarseness, between soaring spiritually higher and being imprisoned in the inertia of materialism.

Or in simpler terms, it is choosing to be the one who takes the higher ground instead of getting pulled into the mire of revenge, anger or resentment.

So how can we win this constant battle?

To me, one of the most moving parts of chassidic teachings is its emphasis on the power of light to eradicate darkness. By shining the simple light of truth on something, by exposing the G‑dly intent of our world, the surrounding darkness melts into oblivion.

In other words, the darkness doesn’t need to be fought; it just needs to be illuminated with the light and truth of Torah, by mindfully focusing on our purpose, and regularly studying and applying texts that enlighten our soul.

The rigors of battle subside if only we can keep that truth constant in our hearts and souls.

Because as we travel along our dark, winding roads, the potency of a simple light distills the darkness—and protects.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW