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In dark times like these, Jewish tradition suggests a new way of seeing

This story was first published on My Jewish Learning.

(JTA) — This past week we entered the Hebrew month of Kislev, the month here in the Northern Hemisphere when we often experience the longest, darkest nights of the year. As the light contracts each day, I experience a tightening in my gut, an anxious fluttering of the heart. Time feels compressed, as if there aren’t enough hours in a day to do everything that needs doing. When the light fades at the end of these foreshortened days, I draw the blinds and turn on the lamps, wanting to make my home into an island of warmth and light in the face of the encroaching darkness.

My trepidation at the onset of night echoes the primal fear of the dark ascribed to the first mythic humans, Adam and Eve. A talmudic tale, found in Avodah Zarah 8a, imagines the two of them becoming frantic as darkness falls at the close of the first day of their lives. They’ve disobeyed God by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and now they’re terror stricken. “Woe is me,” Adam wails, “that because I’ve sinned, the world is darkening around me! The world will return to chaos and emptiness; this is heaven’s death sentence upon me!”

In this midrash, Adam experiences the arrival of darkness as punishment. His words conjure up the kind of existential shudder that can overtake a person in the dark, as the familiar shapes and colors of the daytime world dissolve into the trackless night. No wonder that darkness is often a metaphor for the scariest of times, times like the present, when awash in grief, fear and anger, we bear witness to the atrocities of war, to hatred unleashed and suffering magnified, to shattered dreams and dampened hopes. “These are dark times,” we tell one another.

Perhaps it’s only natural that humans try to beat back the dark with our hearths, campfires and brilliant winter light displays. We Jews do this beginning on the 25th of Kislev, when we kindle Hanukkah candles in remembrance of the Hasmoneans’military victory over the Seleucid Greeks and the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple. But on a more primal level, we do this to remind ourselves that even a tiny flame instantly dispels the deepest dark, offering hope, a light at the end of the tunnel.

And yet it strikes me that many of our tradition’s most transformational and transcendent moments unfold in the dark, in a dream space rich with spiritual potency. In Toldot, this week’s Torah portion, for instance, we meet Jacob, whose journey toward self-realization is bookended by two stirring night episodes. Fleeing from his wrathful brother, he has a prophetic dream in which angels ascend and descend a ladder stretching between heaven and earth while God looms over him, promising protection. Returning home some 20 years later, he engages in an all-night wrestling match with a mysterious being, perhaps his own shadow self, who ultimately blesses him as the dawn breaks, renaming him Israel, the one who strives with God and prevails.

Despite the anguish that darkness evokes, the dark times offer unique opportunities. They slow us down, inviting us to rest in the moment. Sometimes they force us to face painful truths. They challenge us to deepen our prayer life, strengthen our faith and resolve, and discover inner resources and possibilities for transformation we might not know we possess.

Years ago, I practiced walking in the woods at night without a flashlight and discovered that when I could breathe deeply and relax into the darkness, over time my eyes would adjust and I could see much more than I thought possible. Not just my eyes, but my whole body began to see in the dark in ways that I couldn’t in the light of day. I could find my way.

Adam and Eve, so the story goes, sat across from one another on that first traumatic night, fasting and weeping. When the dawn finally broke, they realized that the freshly created world was not coming to an end and that the alternation of light and dark, day and night, was simply the way of the world. Had they not felt so guilty and terrified they might have been able to look around with curiosity as the light waned, noticing how their eyes were primed to pick up many subtle shades of gray, the palette of darkness. Their vision might have gradually adjusted to the dark and, in the subtle glow of starlight, they might have been able to pick out the familiar, reassuring features of the other’s face and been calmed and comforted, even in the midst of their distress.

Could it be that in our yearning for the resurgence of the light, we fail to recognize and fully receive the gifts of darkness? That in drawing my blinds against the terrors of the night, I also shut out the vastness of the cosmos, the glimmering pinpoints of distant stars, the radiant winter moon, and the intimate, enveloping quiet of the dark?


The post In dark times like these, Jewish tradition suggests a new way of seeing appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis

Drones are seen at a site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on April 20, 2023. Photo: Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

i24 NewsA senior Israeli security official spoke to i24NEWS on Saturday on condition of the retaliatory strike carried out by the Israel Air Force against the Houthi jihadists in Yemen.

“This is an important operation which signals that there’s room for further escalation, and sends a very strong message to the entire Shiite axis.”

“We understood there is a high probability of counter attacks, but if we do not respond, the meaning is even worse. Israel has updated the US prior to the operation.”

The strike on Hodeida came after long-range Iranian-made drone hit a building in central Tel Aviv, killing one man and wounded several others.

The post Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida

Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi addresses followers via a video link at the al-Shaab Mosque, formerly al-Saleh Mosque, in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

i24 NewsThe Israeli military on Saturday confirmed striking a port in Yemen controlled by the Houthi jihadists, a day after the Iranian proxy group perpetrated a deadly drone attack on Tel Aviv.

“A short while ago, IDF fighter jets struck military targets of the Houthi terrorist regime in the area of the Al Hudaydah Port in Yemen in response to the hundreds of attacks carried out against the State of Israel in recent months.”

After Houthi drone attack on Tel Aviv, reports and footage out of Yemen of air strikes hitting Hodeida

— Video used in accordance with clause 27A of Israeli copyright law pic.twitter.com/d2uE16ZzQ1

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, issued a statement saying “The fire that is currently burning in Hodeidah, is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear. The Houthis attacked us over 200 times. The first time that they harmed an Israeli citizen, we struck them. And we will do this in any place where it may be required.”

“The blood of Israeli citizens has a price,” Gallant added. “This has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen, and in other places – if they will dare to attack us, the result will be identical.”

Gallant: ‘The fire currently burning in Hodeida is seen across the region and the significance is clear… The blood of Israeli citizens has a price, as has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen and in other places – if they dare attack us, the result will be identical.’ pic.twitter.com/DmHjwfHtPV

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

The post IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.

REMEMBERING THE DEAD

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

The post One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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