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Me and My Shadow
Shadows are awesome. As children, we chased our shadows or played shadow games where the point was to step on the other kids' shadows while making sure that they didn't step on ours.

As adults we learned that shadows can help us get our bearings even without a compass. Whether we're lost or simply trying to figure out which way is east (the direction toward which Jews to the west of Jerusalem traditionally stand in prayer), shadows can point us in the proper position.

Spiritual shadows are also awesome.

King David, in Psalms, taught that "G-d is your shadow at your right hand." The Baal Shem Tov explains this to mean that G-d has implanted a spiritual dynamic into the universe: Just as the movement of a person's body is reflected and magnified by the shadow, every step of our conduct in this world likewise arouses spiritual forces of incomparable power.

If we're outside on a sunny day, it's clear to us that every movement we make is accompanied by the movement of our shadow. Similarly, every positive action we take, every negative action we resist, every mitzva we do, creates spiritual energy which we could best imagine as "shadows."

Like "regular" shadows, spiritual shadows have no corporeality. Although we may see the reflection of a mitzva (light from a Shabbat candle, a charity box filling up with coins and eventually used to purchase food for a poor person), we don't see, nor can we touch, the spiritual reflection and energy created by that act.

Spiritual shadows are also greatly magnified in comparison with the energy or effort expended in performing the mitzva. What better example of this assertion can there be than Maimonides' statement that a small deed can tip one's personal "scale" and the global scale, bringing redemption to the entire world.

A distinction, however, between ordinary shadows and spiritual shadows is that our conduct is always producing spiritual shadows, even in the dark of night or the absence of light. For, ultimately, the mitzvot we do create their own spiritual light which generates the shadow.

Every Jew can not only magnify his shadow but can even cast a giant shadow through bringing more Jewish learning and living into his life. In the 60's movie "Cast a Giant Shadow," American-born West Point graduate David "Micky" Marcus (who was one of the first generals of the fledgling Israeli army) asserts, "Life isn't a spectator sport, you've got to get involved."

You don't create shadows, ordinary or spiritual, by sitting around and talking about it. "Action is the main thing" Judaism teaches. Get involved. Don't be afraid of your own shadow!


 

 


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