Where Was I . . . The Code of the Universe 

By Janice Lane Palko 

If I get up at night to visit the bathroom, I pass three windows on my way. My house sits high on a hill, and when I glance out those windows, I can see across a small valley to the next street over where the light from a gas lamp pierces the darkness and sends out rays of light, shining like a star. For some reason, that small light always makes me feel better.  

After the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, I’ve been thinking a lot about light. The tragedy happened at the darkest time of the year, making the grief and sorrow that has descended upon those living here seem that much bleaker. Dwelling in darkness is not comfortable, and I believe a longing for light has been encoded in our souls because ever since we’ve discovered fire and the sun, humanity has   been attracted to light.  

Most every religion, ancient or otherwise, celebrates or incorporates light into its practices. The ancient Druids had several light festivals. Hindus, Jains and Sikhs celebrate the festival of light known as Diwali.  Jew celebrate Hanukkah, which commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, when a miracle happened. Even though they only had enough oil to keep the Menorah lit for one day, the lamp burned for eight days. Christians light candles, Christmas trees and decorate their homes with light at Christmastime.  

The sacred books are filled with references to light. In fact, the third verse of the Old Testament tells us that one of the first things God created was light saying, “Let there be light.” In John’s Gospel in the New Testament, he tells us in the Nativity narrative that, “What has come into being in him was life, life that was the light of men; and light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it. 

A few nights after the shooting at Tree of Life it occurred to me why that small light I see in the middle of the night gives me hope and comfort. It’s because no matter how dark it may get, light cannot be vanquished by the darkness.  But light can defeat darkness. In the midst of bright summer day, have you ever seen a patch of darkness? No. However, you can see light shining in the darkness, but you will never see a patch of darkness penetrating the light. Not only are we created to embrace the light, it is foreordained that light overcomes the darkness. Therefore, no matter how dark it may feel this December whether from the loss of daylight, genuine sorrow or sadness, know that in the end the light always triumphs—it’s written into the code of the universe. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas! 

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