Dec 02, 2021
JERUSALEM WEATHER

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A polar vortex sept into the central US, generating a spectacular meteorological phenomenon reminiscent of the Pillar of Fire that guided the Hebrews from Egypt to the Promised Land. According to one rabbi, the message is clear.

Pillars of Light in the Cold Dark Winter

The phenomenon of ‘light pillars’ is spectacular, beautiful, and rare but it has a perfectly simple explanation. When conditions are right, tiny ice crystals are suspended in the chill air. The air must be very cold and very calm. When light from the ground, such as from streetlights, passes through the crystals, the light is reflected. The ice crystals are usually flat, often with six sides. They must generally be horizontal as they float through the air. Each flake or crystal is able to act like a mirror, which reflects light sources upwards. The larger the crystals, the more pronounced the effect will be. It appears as a vertical beam of light extending upwards above the light source. Light pillars can also be caused by the Moon.

Light pillars were spotted in  Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania which are all experiencing an unusually cold winter due to a polar vortex descending into the central US with temperatures of -10 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. But light pillars are normally seen further north and are not uncommon across the border in Canada. 

Pillar of Light/Pillar of Fire

The recent appearances are the result of a meteorological condition but a similar, divinely initiated pillar of light, helped guide the Children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. The physical manifestation of God’s presence, referred to as theophany, in the form of a nocturnal pillar of fire was, ostensibly, to aid in their travels at night. This was paired with a daytime pillar of smoke, both acting as a pre-technology GPS navigational system but an additional function was as a constant reminder of God’s presence. 

When the pillar of God moved forward, the people of Israel would pack up their camp and follow behind it. Similarly, when the pillar of God’s presence stopped, the Israelites would set up camp underneath it. The Levites would set up the Tabernacle of the Lord directly underneath the cloud of the Lord. This way, God’s presence was visibly in the center of the camp at all times.

Hashem went before them in a pillar of cloud by day, to guide them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, that they might travel day and night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. Exodus 13:21-22

So closely were the pillars associated with God that they were weaponized against the Egyptians.

At the morning watch, Hashem looked down upon the Egyptian army from a pillar of fire and cloud, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. Exodus 14:24

The sight of these pillars impressed the other nations who also saw them as a sign of God’s connection to the camp of Israel.

Now they have heard that You, Hashem, are in the midst of this people; that You, Hashem, appear in plain sight when Your cloud rests over them and when You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Numbers 14:14

Pillar of Light to Guide in the Darkness

Rabbi Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, emphasized that even though God is truly everywhere, unusual natural phenomena are an opportunity to experience an additional aspect of God.

“A pillar of light in the dark night is universally reassuring,” Rabbi Berger said. “But not only does it light the way but it emphasizes the darkness. Right now, the entire world needs to be aware of the spiritual darkness that makes white look like black, makes people call good evil, and vice versa.”

The rabbi was, of course, referring to a verse in the Book of Isaiah:

Ah, Those who call evil good And good evil; Who present darkness as light And light as darkness; Who present bitter as sweet And sweet as bitter! Isaiah 5:20

“A society that cannot see the difference between a man and a woman, between murdering a baby in the woman and doing kindness to the mother, is entirely lost,” Rabbi Berger said. “But all is not lost.”

Rabbi Berger cited Rabbi Shniur Zalman of Liadi who founded the Chabad branch of Chabad Hasidut in the 18th Century, who said, “A little light dispels a great darkness.”

Rabbi Berger emphasized that the winter “Pillars of Fire” in the central US came to present a message focused on any Jew who might happen to see it.

“According to Jewish tradition, all of the plagues, indeed all of the acts of God seen and experienced in the Exodus from Egypt will be experienced again before the final redemption,” Rabbi Berger said, citing the Prophet Micah.

I will show him wondrous deeds As in the days when You sallied forth from the land of Egypt. Micah 7:15

“The message is so clear as to be unmistakable,” Rabbi Berger said. “God is sending you a light in the dark to guide you home.”