Light shines on the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart. — Psalm 97:11
In Psalm 97, the psalmist teaches us that light shines on the righteous. Most of us have been lucky enough to come across an individual or two who radiates goodness, righteousness, and peace. But there is another way of understanding the verse. In Hebrew manuscripts the verse reads, “Light is planted for the righteous.” This nuance is significant, giving a whole new meaning to the verse.
The Jewish sages understand the verse this way: Light is planted because of the righteous. Every time a righteous person speaks or acts, light is “planted,” so to speak, like a seed. What happens to a seed that is placed in the ground? It sprouts, grows, and eventually turns into a plant or tree. The tree can then bear fruit which contains other seeds, which if planted in the ground, can eventually give way to an entire forest!
Such is the power of one little, but powerful seed. And such is the power of righteous deeds.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so hold this picture in your mind: Imagine planting a tree of light. Imagine watching it grow into a beautiful and radiant living thing. Now imagine a forest full of these luminescent creations. They can light up an entire world! In this psalm, King David gave us a powerful image — one that drives home the potency of one small act of righteousness.
You never know how far one kind action will shine. I recently saw a short video about kindness that portrays what life may be like one day in a messianic world. The video begins with a kid on a skateboard. He slips and falls, but is helped up by a construction worker. The boy smiles and then sees an older woman crossing the street loaded down with groceries. He chooses to “pay it forward” and helps the lady with her packages.
The video goes on for several minutes with each beneficiary of kindness bestowing kindness on another person. Until the story ends where it began: A kindly tipped waitress helps out the construction worker, who began the chain of events, by giving him a cool glass of water. From his one act of kindness, a whole forest of kindness emerged.
What seeds of light can we plant today? How about giving a compliment to a stranger? Or lending someone a helping hand? Let’s make it our intention today to plant as much light as we can. It may take just moments, or maybe decades, but our seeds will grow. And when they do, their light will shine down on us, too.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President