The Power of Light in Judaism

The Power of Light in Judaism

Inspired by both nature and Jewish mysticism, this short article explores the physical and spiritual power of light in Jewish tradition as well as our own personal experience. Originally from Wellsprings of Wisdom, a “virtual retreat center,” these ideas are relevant for those seeking spiritual renewal and personal growth through the ancient Jewish symbols of nature and the “Torah of mother earth.” Created by Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan of the Jewish Renewal movement, this site can be a wonderful resource to people of any denomination or faith. 


Need a moment of retreat, a micro-Shabbat? Stop and look at some natural light (or at night, go out and look at the night sky).

I have always been transfixed by light. Gazing at the dappled sunlight and shadow in a creek near my house, watching the sunlight dance and sparkle on a pool of water, or contemplating the changing hues of a sunset or sunrise, all of these rays of light seem to connect immediately to my soul.

We experience light both physically and spiritually. On a physical level, sunlight is necessary for photosynthesis, growth, and for life on earth to exist. Light sets our body clocks and regulates our circadian rhythms. On a symbolic level, light has a universal meaning of goodness, awakening, and hope, associated with warmth and healing.

“The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols” by Ellen Frankel and Betsy Platkin Teutsch, describes light as a pervasive symbol in Jewish theology and tradition, where it is “the primary link between divine and human worlds.” Since God’s first act of creation is to create light, light is associated with creative power. In mystical thought, divinity is pictured as a source of endless light: Ohr Ein Sof. Light is a symbol of Torah, “For a commandment is a lamp, and Torah is light.” (Proverbs 6:23). Light also has a moral association; the people of Israel are called upon to be an ethical example, “a light unto the nations” (Isaiah 24:6).