Wanted: One torch-bearer. Looking for a team player who can join with several million others to shed light in a dark world. Illuminate path for others. Shine light on objects and people. Help reveal the good in the world.
This is the job description of a Jew: to carry our spark of Divine light into the world and shine it wherever we go. The brighter the light, the brighter is Hashem’s presence.
It’s a hard job in a chaotic world. So why would we want to make the job harder for each other?
Little Yaakov loved his second grade rebbe, Rabbi Davis.
“He’s a real true tzaddik!” he told his mother on Friday afternoon as she helped him get ready for Shabbos. “He knows the whole Torah and he does all the mitzvos every day.”
That night, at the Shabbos table, Yaakov asked his father, “Wanna hear the story Rebbe told us today? Can I tell it?”
The father was pleased with his little boy’s enthusiasm about yeshiva. He was delighted to see such a warm bond between his son and the rebbe.
“Sure, Yaakov, let’s hear it!”
Yaakov went on for some time, weaving a “fish tale” of Leviathan proportions. It included numerous unlikely miracles, supposedly performed for Rabbi Davis’ ancestor, a shopkeeper in Prague during the times of the Maharal and the Golem. Yaakov’s father was annoyed at the rebbe’s obvious fabrications. He believed in keeping truth and fiction strictly separate.
“That’s a nice story, Yaakov,” said his father. “The only thing is, I’m not sure that the Golem really carried Rabbi Davis’ great great great great grandfather across the river. Maybe your rebbe made up part of it to make it more exciting.”
“Rebbe told a lie?” the child asked, crushed.
“Well, not exactly….”
Too late. The brilliant light Rabbi Davis shone into Yaakov’s world was now dimmed, perhaps covered up altogether. Every time we talk about another person, we can either be a “team player” helping our fellow torch-bearer’s light shine stronger, or an impediment, casting a shadow over the light he is meant to bring into the world.
When we’re stuck wondering if we should say the words that are on the tip of our tongue, we can use this simple test: Will they form a cloud, or a magnifying glass, over our fellow torch-bearer’s light?