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Rashi says in Breaishis Chapter 1, Verse 4:

אף בזה אנו צריכים לדברי אגדה ראהו שאינו כדאי להשתמש בו רשעים והבדילו לצדיקים לעתיד לבא. "Even this requires words of Aggadah, He saw that it was not fit for the wicked to use it (the light) and he separated it for the righteous in the future"

I often wondered what this Rashi means. The following are some questions:

  1. Where were the wicked that Chazal are referring to?
  2. How did Hashem separate it?
  3. Why don't the wicked deserve to use the light?
  4. How will it be used in the future?
  5. If we all have light, in what way did he hide it from the wicked?
  6. More to the point, what is the idea Chazal are trying to convey?
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4 Answers

The light referred to by this Midrash isn't light in its conventional sense, but rather a special "light" or "sight" that is some sort of spiritual energy. Here is an excerpt of the Midrash Rashi is citing:

אור שברא הקב"ה ביום ראשון אדם צופה ומביט בו מסוף העולם ועד סופו כיון שהסתכל הקב"ה באנשי דור המבול ובאנשי דור הפלגה שמעשיהן מקולקלין, עמד וגנזה והתקינה לצדיקים לעתיד לבא

To address your points:

  1. Wicked people who arise in every generation.
  2. Separation in this context means "put away for later."
  3. Because they're wicked and would harness the light to further their evil objectives.
  4. The worthy use the special light to see "from one end of the world to the other."
  5. We all have regular physical light. Not the special light referenced here.
  6. The simple meaning is our sages are revealing here a secret hinted by the Scriptural text, i.e. the existence of some spiritual force which is saved for the Tzadikim in the future.
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The Midrash @Barry quoted here, tells us that the special light G-d created was used by Adam HaRishon to see from one end of the world to the other. Later, G-d hid that light and saved it for the Tzadikim in the future.

The Ba'al Shem Tov taught that the light was hidden inside the Torah, and Tzadikim of every generation can use that light to see from one end of the world to the other.

The Degel Machaneh Efraim, grandson of the Ba'al Shem Tov, attests that he personally saw the Ba'al Shem Tov do this many times. He brings one story where the Ba'al Shem Tov sent a letter to his brother-in-law in Israel, mentioning that he (the Ba'al Shem Tov) had seen that his brother-in-law had spent a Shabbos outside the land of Israel. The brother-in-law responded that he went to do a bris milah on Shabbos, outside the land of Israel. How was the Ba'al Shem Tov able to do this? By using the light hidden in the Torah. He further points out that this is hinted to in the Ba'al Haturim, who points out that את האור has the same numerical value as the word בתורה (An English translation can be found here).

Here is another essay that further examines the Ba'al Shem Tov's explanation.


The Gemara (Nedarim 8b) says that the light of the sun was concealed in a sheath, that will be removed when Moshiach comes. Once removed, the true light of the sun will burn up the wicked and heal the righteous. (In English)

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4. Rav Kook is famously quoted in an English newspaper from the '30s as saying that Rembrandt used some of it in making his art.

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The power of light is something that if fully known could be used for great harm or great good. For example we see the great good and harm that Nuclear energy can cause. Perhaps Hashem saw to it that the knowledge of light should emerge gradually as a progression and development as man applied his wisdom to understand it. Perhaps the knowledge would emerge as mankind is ready for it. Furthermore, what is meant by the separation of חשך from אור? Isn’t חשך just the absence of אור, what is to separate? Perhaps חשך is not just that absence of light, because then what does the verse mean when it says Hashem separated חשך and אור. Perhaps חשך is referring to the spectrum of light that we do not see. This area of study, such as x-rays, radiation, gamma rays and so on is hidden in a way that requires tremendous study and investigation to uncover.

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If you decide to down vote, please comment as to why. What is your objection? Thanks! –  RCW Jun 22 '11 at 6:52
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