Sunday, June 22, 2014

B’ha’alotekha- The Menorah as a Way of Thinking


V’zeh ma’aseh hamenorah miksha zahav ad-y’reikha ad-pircha miksha hi kamareh asher her’ah Adonai et-Moshe kein asah et-hamenorah
And this is how the lampstand was made: it was hammered work of gold, hammered from base to petal, according to the pattern that Adonai showed Moshe, thus he made the menorah. (B’midbar 8:4)
The Torah gives us much detail on the making of the menorah. It is the oldest symbol of our people. God commands its creation and design. Its light illuminated the Ohel Moed during our wandering and the Beit Mikdash afterwards, until being carried into exile, as we were, by the Romans. This is a recognizable picture to any familiar with the Arch of Titus. For centuries, Roman Jews have refused to walk beneath this arch, which has symbolized the end of our sovereignty in the Land of Israel.
In Haftarah B’ha’alotekha, Zechariah sees a vision of the menorah. An angel explains to him the meaning, “…lo v’chayil v’lo v’choach ki im b’ruchi amar Hashem Tz’vaot; not by might and not by power, but by My spirit said the Lord of Hosts.” According to Isaac Luria, the 16th century kabbalist, the menorah represents the Jewish way of thinking. It represents balance. The six branches to the right and left of the menorah represent secular and academic disciplines. These surround, illuminate and are illuminated by the central branch, which represents the light of Torah. In order to achieve balance, we need both secular learning and faith. Each branch shines upon the others. Each discipline aids in revealing the others. Each branch is essential in the creation of the menorah. Were any one removed, the lamp would cease to be a menorah. Thus, knowledge that is limited by tunnel vision, knowledge in a vacuum not illuminated by is incomplete. It can only fully shine when added to other learning.
Science, history, language and Torah learning all build upon foundations from those who came before us. Shi’vim panim laTorah; there are seventy faces to the Torah. Each one adds to our learning, and if one is missing, then our learning is incomplete.