Spiritual Tools: The Three Weeks: Becoming Illuminators
A story is told of Rabbi Mattaih ben Cheresh who was wealthy, God-fearing, had a fine personality, ran to do mitzvot, tzedakah in particular, provided generously from all he owned for the benefit of the Sages, always had widows and orphans eating at his table, all his dealings with other people were honest, all his life he was involved in Torah study like his teacher, Rabbi Meir, and the radiance of his face shone as brightly as the brilliance of sunlight (Midrash Tanchumah, Chukkat 1).
We see that one who acts as he should, who lives a life of righteousness, generosity, Torah study and honesty, will shine with the brilliance of sunlight.
We are taught that there were many such people at the time of the destruction of the 2nd Temple. Yet, despite their great radiance, the sin of baseless hatred prevented their light from illuminating others. We can take an important step toward repairing the sin of baseless hatred by emulating the students in the following story:
“When the Torah study session was finished in Rabbi Ammi’s school, they would say to each other: “May you see your world in your lifetime.”
“May your eyes sparkle with the light of Torah
and you are face as the radiance of the Heavens.
May you speak words of great Torah insight,
and may your entire being be joyous,
with those things that are right and just in life.
May your feet hurry to hear the words of the One Who is Ancient, Older than Time Itself (Berachot 17a).”
We are taught that there were many such people at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple. Yet, despite their great radiance, the sin of baseless hatred prevented their light from illuminating others. We can take an important step toward repairing the sin of baseless hatred by emulating the students in the following story:
They prayed for each other to shine with the light of Torah and the radiance of the Heavens. At the very least, we too, can pray as did they.
The Midrash teaches that each of us contains the seeds of such radiance: When Israel stood at Mount Sinai and said, “We will do, and we will hear,” at that very moment they were given of some of the radiance God’s Intimate Presence (Pesikta Rabbati 21:5). We can use the 3 Weeks to become the highest form of Illuminators: those who nurture the inner radiance of those around them.
The Talmud teaches that one way we can nurture the light of others and thereby receive more like ourselves is: “Rabbi Dostai expressed the following insight in the name of Rabbi Yannai; ” If a person gives even the smallest coin to tzedakah, he will receive the light of God’s Presence (Bava Batra 10a).” We know how sometimes a simple act of kindness, a warm word, can bring light to the face of someone who is suffering. We don’t need to do usage things in order to become illuminators, the most ostensibly insignificant acts are often overflowing with the light of God’s Presence.
Rabbi Chanan of Tziporin said:
What does the unwise person say?
“Who could possibly study all of Torah? The section Nezikin alone is 30 chapters! This section Keilim alone is 30 chapters!”
What does the person of insight say?
“I will study 2 laws today, and another two tomorrow, until I have studied the entire Torah (Vayikra Rabbah 19:2).”
We can the become illuminators one small step at a time.