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Parashat Tetzaveh: Eternal Light

What do we use light for? The obvious and straightforward answer is “to see.” When it is dark outside or inside, we turn on a light so we can see our surroundings better. But, there is more to light than just being able to see. Light can bring comfort. Think about when you were little, and your parents left a nightlight on for you to help you feel safe from all the monsters that can go bump in the night. Like in Peter Pan when Mrs. Darling turns on the night-lights as she tucks her children into bed, she says, “Dear night-lights protect my sleeping babes. Burn clear and steadfast tonight.” Think about Lighthouses by the sea guiding ships home. They are a beacon to keep ships safe while sailing by hazardous reefs and coastlines. More than that Lighthouses have also become a romantic symbol of love and hope. There have been plenty of love stories told and written about sailors coming home to their loves guided by the light of the Lighthouse. There is also the perpetual binary of Light vs. Darkness, Good vs. Bad, the Light fighting the never-ending Darkness. So, light holds many layers of meaning.

In this week’s Torah Portion, Tetzaveh, G-d commands Moses to tell the Israelites, “And you shall command the people of Israel, that they bring you pure beaten oil for the light, for the lamp to burn always/continually/eternally (Hebrew term - Ner Tamid). In the Tent of Meeting outside the veil, which is before the Testimony… (Exodus 27:20-21).” G-d has the Israelites keep a light above the home of the tablets, our Torah, in the place where we go to speak to G-d. Most importantly, this light is not a light that you can turn off and on, or blow out. It is a light that must “always” be burning. Why was it so important to G-d that the Israelites must have an eternally burning light above the space where we can speak with G-d? Even to this day if you look above all the arks in all the Main Sanctuaries, and all the Chapels in Synagogues or other places that keep and ark, you will see a Ner Tamid, an “eternal light.” So tonight at your Shabbat table, think about what light means to you. Think about why G-d would want to make sure we always have light when we speak with Him, or stand before the Torah. Think about the power of light.

Shabbat Shalom!