Yotzer Ohr — cracks of light

  . בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם יוֹצֵר אוֹר וּבוֹרֵא חשֶׁךְ עֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם  וּבוֹרֵא אֶת־הַכֹּל

The yotzer berakhah is found immediately after Barekhu in the Shaharit service.  It concerns the creation of light: “Barukh atah A’, our God, ruler of time and space forming light and creating darkness, bringing harmony while creating all (Mahzor Lev Shalem)”.  

The berakha is a bridge between the themes of pesukei dezimra, which include a celebration of God’s role as Creator, to an upcoming theme of Shaharit, our access to Torah.  The transition is accomplished in a bit of liturgical imagination by using “light” – specifically, enlightenment — to characterize our relationship with Torah.  “Ve’ha’er einenu beToratekha”: enlighten our eyes with your Torah, we pray, in the paragraph immediately before the Shema.

This year, the yotzer berakhah and its emphasis on light feel remote to me.  We live in a dark time. All around me, the world seems cracked.

This summer, I was reminded of a lyric by Leonard Cohen: “There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”

That’s how I want to live with this berakhah, yotzer or.  When the world feels too cracked to rejoice in the light of creation and Torah, I will endeavor to use those cracks to let the light get in.

Next, another image came to my mind- the practice of kintsugi, the Japanese repair of pottery cracks. 

Many of us, faced with a crack in some earthenware, try to push the cracks together as seamlessly as we can with Super Glue. Consider instead the kintsugi-repaired bowl pictured here.   In this Japanese artistic tradition, the cracks are incorporated into the object and contribute to its beauty, as we lovingly repair it by overlaying those cracks with gold.  I would like to do that with the cracks in my own life experience.

Those two metaphors – Leonard Cohen’s cracks and Japanese kintsugi –  help me embrace the yotzer berakhah this year.

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