Headlights Vs. Dome Light

The other day I was getting into the car, and as I was about to place my keys in the ignition, they fell from my hand. It was at night and it was hard to see. I rummaged around, looking for them to no avail. So I turned on the lights inside the car, and still I couldn’t see them anywhere. I went and got a flash light and then I found the keys lodged under the seat. I was now able to drive off in peace.

But I had forgotten to turn on my headlights - The headlights of this car do not turn on automatically, so I couldn’t see where I was going. I immediately turned them on, and now I was able to drive on my way.

Being that I drive so much these days, I can’t help but notice some of the details of what driving entails. This episode led me to realize that there is the light inside the car and there is the headlight outside the car. What is the difference between them? And why do we need both?

Light is needed to dispel darkness. But darkness takes on different forms.

There is the darkness of confusion. I don’t know where I’m going and I need to focus on direction and purpose. Light shows us the way. Light gives us clarity to be able to see what is what, and to focus on direction as to where we should be headed.

Darkness can also be seen as negativity. When someone wants to do something wrong, they hide in the cover of darkness. Very rarely does someone advertise to all, the bad activity that they are doing; they hide in the shadows. Shining a light on the situation helps to subdue the negative, by focusing us on what is morally and ethically proper.

The light outside – the headlights, show us where to go. In life we need to have direction and a sense of purpose as to what we are doing here. We need headlights to show us the way forward. especially at ‘night’ (a time of confusion), when we can’t see where we are going.

But then there is the light inside the car, to see what’s going on inside the vehicle while on the journey. This ensures that whatever we are doing on the journey is morally sound and ethically appropriate.

We are now celebrating the festival of Chanukah. We mark the holiday by lighting the Menorah and adding a candle each night. ‘Ki ner mitzvah vetorah ohr’ (Proverbs 6:23) - a candle is a mitzvah and the Torah is light. There are two types of light. The light of the positive mitzvos is the light of where we are headed. The purpose of our lives is to add in goodness in the world. That is our direction and purpose. This is the types of Mitzvos that we should do.

But on the journey, we have to be careful not to hurt other people along the way. The irony is, that many people devote their lives to spreading goodness, and bringing more light into the world; but at the same time they may be hurting others. Shining more light with one hand and bringing more darkness with the other. This is justified with ‘the ends justify the means’.

So we also need to have the light of the negative Mitzvos on the inside of the vehicle. To ensure that while we are on the journey we don’t hurt others along the way. The Torah shines light on the situation by teaching us to separate what is morally wrong from right, by teaching us about the negative Mitzvos of what we shouldn’t do. So that on our journey to do more good in the world, we don’t inadvertently do more harm.

(And for those that their light inside the car is not ‘bright’ enough, they may have to go and get a ‘flashlight’ from ‘outside’ - for those who for whatever reason are not educated in the Torah’s teaching they can go and consult with an outside expert and/or ask to be taught).

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Levi