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How To Stop And See The Good In The Darkness

During one of my tutoring sessions today, my student and I got to talking about creation. Granted, her Torah portion happens to be Bereshit, which talks about exactly that, how God created the world in seven days. First of, let's take a second to think about the enormity of creating an entire functional ecosystem in a week; I can't even get my laundry done in that time.

All joking aside (well, partial joking, since I really am awful at keeping up with my laundry), I have always found comfort in this particular Torah portion. This isn't because of the predictable idea that one can create wonders out of nothing. After each day, God exclaims the following:

1In the beginning of God's creation of the heavens and the earth. אבְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ:
2Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water. בוְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָֽיְתָ֥ה תֹ֨הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְח֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם:
3And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. גוַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִי־א֑וֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר:
4And God saw the light that it was good, and God separated between the light and between the darkness. דוַיַּ֧רְא אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶת־הָא֖וֹר כִּי־ט֑וֹב וַיַּבְדֵּ֣ל אֱלֹהִ֔ים בֵּ֥ין הָא֖וֹר וּבֵ֥ין הַחֽשֶׁךְ:
5And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night, and it was evening and it was morning, one day.
 הוַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים | לָאוֹר֙ י֔וֹם וְלַח֖שֶׁךְ קָ֣רָא לָ֑יְלָה וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם אֶחָֽד:

Here's the thing about this particular Torah portion that gets me. God is working on this MASSIVE project. There are no references as to whether the "day" was 24 hours long or 5 minutes long. There is no concept of time or its constraints. Sure, a break in between creations seems to be the logical result. However, God could have gone through the six days and looked at the final project, corrected any mishaps, and then claimed it at finish. However, after every single day, just like the first, before ending the day, God takes the time to make sure that everything is as it should be, claims it as good, and only then does he move on to the next step.

We have all entered into times in our lives, whether it be projects, life cycles, marriages, etc, and analyze and judge results based on the big picture. How many of us (myself included) take the time to stop after each step, or each day, and look at the small things we accomplished, or the small changes we made, and see whether we are happy with them? how many of us fall into the trap of going through our lives and only making a decision on the result once we have reached either a breaking point, or a moment of finality?

I have often looked back at my life with a judgmental eye. How many things I could have done differently once I have reached a point of no return, and admonished myself for not seeing it sooner. The reality is, whether I could have seen it or not, in hindsight, seems somewhat irrelevant. Its not that I did not see it, its that I didn't take the time to appreciate what I did right, or what I enjoyed, or that small moment during the day where I got a smile out of something that I took for granted. I have gone to bed so many times stressing about what comes next; how many battles tomorrow will bring, or how many tasks I may or may not have time to complete for the next few days. Especially during this pandemic, I have spent hours trying to make sense of the last year and everything that has happened, and have spent nights awake thinking about whats next. I have failed at taking a page out of the very book that I teach my students, and take one minute at the end of the day to appreciate what I have completed, whether perfect or otherwise, before I move on to the next thing. 

This is not to say that in order to avoid stress, one must take time at the end of the day to express gratitude for small miracles (I mean, sure, we should all do that in some way). The message I am trying to convey here is that sometimes it takes more than just stopping before moving on to the next task, or the next day, or the next stage in our life; sometimes, it takes the ability to really look at our steps to see what we have done right and what we have done wrong, make the adjustments, whether concrete or otherwise, so we can be happy with our journey. Sometimes, we will make mistakes that we won't be able to correct; sometimes, we will be able to adjust our own attitude or approach to an issue so we can do better or differently tomorrow. In the last year, we have witnessed so much pain, suffering, loss... We cannot continue to move through life with regret. The power isn't in the change that we can accomplish, but on the fact that we are capable to take that moment of reflection and recognize what is good and what isn't, so we can forge a path that won't cause us nearly as much regret or sadness as it would have if we don't take the time to recognize the good.


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