The Raising of the Sparks


The symbol of a divine spark encased in earthly matter is an ancient Gnostic symbol, which took on new life in the Kabbalah of seventeenth century Safed, as well as in 2015 in Rhode Island. An extraordinary  story in today’s Providence Journal gives me more than a flicker of hope that even in the darkest of times, there are people who find ingenious and simple ways to hold us all in the light. 

“Every night for the past week or so, a little bit of magic has been taking place between a downtown nightclub and kids in rooms at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
At precisely 8:30, staff and patrons of the Hot Club have been sending a silent expression of goodwill and cheer through an ages-old method — flashing lights. For 60 seconds, the club repeatedly turns it’s bright red neon sign off and on four times. Patrons are invited to bring flashlights and join in.
What do the four blinks mean?
“Good Night Hasbro Hospital.”
That’s what Steven Brosnihan had in mind when he first came up with the idea. But what it truly means is much more.
“The message is we know you are there and we are thinking about you,” he said, “and good night.”
To show their appreciation, the children at Hasbro are encouraged to flicker lights in their rooms. Many are children with cancer who must either visit regularly or who have to stay for days on end, said Brosnihan, who serves on the board of the Tomorrow Fund. It can be monotonous to say the least.
“I’ve had some kids literally tell me it’s the best thing that happened all day,” Brosnihan said.”

In the Gnostic version, a spark of divinity is entrapped in an alien and evil world, and imprisoned in the soul of man. According to the Gnostics, the individual’s knowledge of the spark within himself results in its being liberated from this world, and the Gnostic abandons both body and self to join the infinite pleroma.

In contradiction to the Gnostics, Rabbi Isaac Luria held that when the spark of divine light is freed, the world is reintegrated and restored, rather than escaped and discarded. According to the Hasidim it is the individual’s divinely appointed task to not only liberate those sparks that are entrapped in Kelippot within his own body and soul, but also those sparks in the world that he or she encounters along life’s way. Through proper ethical and spiritual conduct the individual is able to free the holy sparks from the Kelippot which contain them, enabling the exiled divine light to return to its source, thus promoting the completion of Tikkun ha-Olam.

The “raising of the sparks” implies that there is something of spiritual value in all things, and it is man’s daily task to discover and bring out the value in the material world,  transforming it into a spiritual realm. Tikkun ha-Olam will only be complete when the last spark has been raised and the entire world informed with spiritual meaning and value.

My wish for this season is that we each begin, or continue, our ongoing dialogue with the Divine. If we freely acknowledge and collectively share our  fragments of light, perhaps God will respond in kind.

 “The message is: we know you are there and we are thinking about you, and goodnight.”



7 thoughts on “The Raising of the Sparks

  1. Shalom Amy: thank you for this message. My son Salem is on the Board of Phila Children’s Hospital and I am sending this to him . Thanks so much . I hear that you Like you new home in RhodeIsland and that you have a wonderful new job. Mazel tov. I would love to hear from you when you are in town. Hedvah


  3. Lovely story – reminds me of this poem that I’ve always appreciated –

    Gathering the Sparks by Howard Schwartz

    Traces of the divine light adhered to the fragments of broken vessels like sparks. Therefore it should be the aim of everyone to raise these sparks from where they are imprisoned in the world and to elevate them to holiness by the power of their soul. –Israel Sarug, 1691

    Long before the sun cast a shadow
    Before the Word was spoken
    That brought the heavens
    And the earth
    Into Being
    A flame emerged
    From a single
    And from the center of this flame
    Sparks of light sprang forth
    Concealed in shells
    That set sail everywhere
    And below
    Like a fleet of ships
    Each carrying its cargo
    Of light.

    No one knows why
    The frail vessels broke open
    Split asunder
    And all the sparks were scattered
    Like sand
    Like seeds
    Like stars.

    That is why we were created –
    To search for the sparks
    No matter where they have been
    And as each one is revealed
    To be consumed
    In our own fire
    And reborn
    Out of our own

    When the sparks have been gathered
    The vessels will be
    And the fleet will set sail
    Across another ocean
    Of space
    And the Word
    Will be spoken

    From: Voices Within The Ark, The Modern Jewish Poets,
    H. Schwartz & A. Rudolf, Eds.
    Avon Publishers 1980.

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