It has long been recognized that relying on fossil fuels as a power source is not sustainable in the long run. The earth’s natural resources are becoming depleted, and burning coal and gas contributes to pollution and global warming. Solar power is one of the best sources of renewable energy, especially in hot desert areas. There, the intense sunlight is a potent form of energy that in most cases merely bakes the earth but is not harnessed for productive ends.Solar power is one of the best sources of renewable energy

The world’s largest solar power plant has recently opened in the Mojave Desert, consisting of rows upon rows of bright mirrors spread across nearly five square miles of the desert floor. The mirrors focus the desert’s intense sunlight onto boilers, which heat water into steam. The steam then turns a turbine to generate energy. The plant produces enough energy to power 144,000 homes. The site of the power plant has virtually uninterrupted sunshine all year round, and is situated near power lines, making it an ideal setting for converting sunlight into usable energy.

No form of energy is of any use unless there is a way to channel and harness it. Otherwise, the energy simply dissipates. We find a similar concept in Jewish thought. There are certain times of the year when special spiritual energy is generated—such as on Shabbat, holidays, or Rosh Chodesh (the new moon). We must find a way to capture the energy and use it to drive our continuing development as human beings, to energize us in the fulfillment of mitzvahs.

We find an example of poorly channeled energy in this week’s Torah portion, when Nadav and Avihu, two sons of Aaron, entered the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and brought a “strange fire” to G‑d. They were so enthusiastic about the building of the Mishkan and the prospect of becoming close to G‑d that they offered a sacrifice at a time that was not appropriate for them. We must find a way to capture the energyAs a result, their souls simply flew out of their bodies in an effort to cleave to G‑d. Had they not been so overeager, they could have used this intense spiritual power to bring about real change and elevation in the world. However, their spiritual zeal was focused only on rising to G‑d, but not on channeling the energy here on earth. Therefore, they did not survive.

Over the course of exile, we have been charged with the task of building “mirrors in the desert,” harnessing the intense divine radiation that is beaming down upon us. The “mirrors” are our mitzvahs, and the “sunlight” is the divine light that is drawn down to the world through our actions. When Moshiach comes, the construction project will be complete, and we will be able to derive the full benefit of the work we have done over so many generations. Then, G‑d will “take the sun out of its shield,” and the night will shine like the day.