Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Parashat T’tzaveh- The Eternal Light in Our Life

V’ata t’tzaveh et b’nei Yisrael v’yikchu eileikha shemen zayit zakh katit lama’or l’ha’a lot ner tamid. B’ohel moed michutz laparokhet asher al ha’eidut ya’arokh oto Aharon uvanav mei’erev ad boker lifnei Hashem chukat olam l’dorotam mei’eit b’nei Yisrael.
And you shall command the Children of Israel to bring to you clear oil from beaten olives for lighting the ner tamid. In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain which is over the [Ark] of the Pact , Aaron and his sons shall set them up [to burn] from evening until morning before Hashem; it is a statute for the Children of Israel for all time.

The Ner Tamid, which is the menorah, burns in the Tent of Meeting outside the curtain, where all of Israel came to speak with God. This flame is a ner tamid, an eternal light, burning continuously as a symbol of Hashem and His covenant with Israel. The continuously burning flame of the Ner Tamid is a symbol that has resonated with individuals and communities for centuries. Fire gives off warmth and light, creating comfort and enhancing vision. Mishlei (Proverbs) says, “Ner mitzvah v’Torah ohr; Mitzvah is a lamp and Torah is light.” Light is a tool and an inspiration. The Ner Tamid allows us sight in the dark, both actual and theological. In the glow of this light we can fulfill God’s covenant; we can come together as a community; we can reach inside ourselves, and work to communicate with the Divine.

Talmud Bavli in Niddah teaches the midrash that in utero a light shines above the head of the embryo. This light illuminates the world from end to end. During this time the soul learns all of Torah. 

This Ner Tamid continues to burn in our lives. The menorah is the symbol of the Jewish People and the modern State of Israel.  The Ner Tamid illuminates our sanctuaries. Our holy days are begun and ended with flame, as are our lives. Our learning as individuals and as a people continues to connect us to that first light in our lives- the ner tamid that burned for our people in the wilderness, for each of us in utero, and throughout our lives in our connection to our congregation, the Jewish community, and the people Israel.

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