“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.” — Isaiah 60:1
The Torah portion for this week is Ki Tavo, which means “when you have entered,” from Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 60:1–22.
“Rise and shine!” Maybe you woke up to that morning call as a child. While many people are familiar with this phrase, most aren’t aware of its origins. It comes from Scripture — in fact it’s from the opening verse of this week’s Haftorah reading: “Arise, shine, for your light has come . . .”
Like the past several weeks, this reading is one of seven Scripture selections aimed at healing the wounds of Israel as we prepare for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. As part of our spiritual healing we must “rise and shine.” But what does that really mean?
For help in understanding these powerful words from the prophet Isaiah, we turn to one of Jerusalem’s greatest rabbis, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel and one of the most influential rabbis of the 20th century. Rabbi Kook wrote, “Every person is required to know that there is a candle burning inside of him, and his light isn’t like anyone else’s light, and there is no one who doesn’t possess a light. Every single person is required to understand that it is his obligation to work on revealing his light, and to make it into a great torch, shedding light on the whole world.”
With that in mind, we can interpret the prophet’s message. The word “arise” in this context means to wake up – not just physically, but spiritually. We must wake up to the knowledge of who we are and what we are meant to do in the world. As it says in Proverbs 20:7, “The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD . . .” The Jewish sages explain that the human spirit – our soul – is made up of the “candle of God.” In other words, the light that Rabbi Kook referenced is none other than the spark of divinity within each person. Every one of us contains a unique piece of God within him or her. That is who we are at our core – a part of God.
The word “shine” obligates us to do something with the divine spark within us. We must work on revealing it and sharing our unique light with the world. We are here to bring light to the darkest of places, healing to all broken places. While it might seem like a daunting task in the dark world we live in, the sages offer this encouragement, “The smallest amount of light can dispel a great amount of darkness.”
A warm smile, a small favor, a kind word – it doesn’t take much to shine some light in this world. So tomorrow morning when you wake up, “rise and shine” your unique light out into the world and enjoy the glory that God shines back on you.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President