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A Thought on the Solar Eclipse

Monday, August 21, 2017

Today we will witness a rare event, a total solar eclipse. For those in the path of totality as well as partially for others, it will bring darkness, temperature drop and animal activity usually reserved for sunset. Throughout the millennia many have viewed an eclipse as a bad omen, harbinger of doom and the beginning of a darkness that would last forever. Even in the Jewish tradition, where awe-inspiring phenomena (i.e. a comet or shooting star) merit the recitation of a blessing, many rabbis do not endorse reciting a blessing on an eclipse as it is viewed as something negative.

Today, while we know it is not the start of a permanent darkness we still witness the eclipse with fascination. Rather than a sign about our future, we can take the opportunity to reflect on the world around us.

Having experienced other moments of darkness even in the past week, from Charlottesville, Virginia to Spain to the Quebec City protests against immigrants, dark sentiments continue to rise to the surface. Amidst all this gloom, it can be easy to believe that we may never again see the light.

The weekly havdala ceremony through which the Jewish people end the Sabbath can give us some insight into our relationship with darkness and light. During havdala, where we are plunged into darkness, we speak of separation. We announce the separation of light and darkness, holy and profane, Israel and the other nations and the Sabbath and the other days of the week.

Just as the eclipse creates a clear distinction between dark and light, we strive to teach our students to distinguish between the good and bad to help those in need and be proud of their Jewish identity as a light among nations. The most important tool for social change and social harmony, for creating a community where we move forward together and not backward, is education.

As we move towards the start of the new school year, we will continue to watch our students shine and be a beacon of light to our community.