Kindle the Lights

B”H

“You will kindle and prepare the lamps.” – Tanchuma Behalotecha 3

When Aaron grew concerned, that the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel brought offerings to inaugarate the Mishkan, yet, he was not called to contribute in like manner, H’Shem told him that he would have a greater responsibility. He was placed in charge of lighting the menorah that rested in the Mishkan. This would be a detailed procedure that culminated in the light of the menorah being kept lit during the night, and foreshadow the role of his descendants, who rededicated the Temple, after its near destruction by the Hellenists; hence, the celebration of Chanukah every year, even unto this day and age.

According to the Talmud, ‘He is required to light the lamp until the flame rises by itself” (Shabbat 21a). Thus, he had to make sure that each wick was lit well enough, that the flame would continue to grow, until it remained steady on its own. A lesson is mentioned in commentary, concerning this commandment, that the same is true for ourselves, when we help others. We must make sure to properly guide others, in order for them to continue to grow spiritually on their own.

Aaron would also clean out the menorah, preparing it to be lit again each and every day. Another lesson, for ourselves, to keep in mind, is that everyday, we must clean out the “soot and ash,” figuratively speaking, in our own lives. This was one of the tasks of Aaron, necessary, before placing the new wicks in each lamp, and lighting the Menorah. To keep the light glowing in our lives, we must also prepare ourselves everyday to receive that light from H’Shem. We are each a light sent by G-d into this world, that we may also light up the lives of others.

Seek the Light

B”H

“Towards the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps cast light.”

  • Numbers 8:2, JPS 1917 Tanach

The “seven lamps” shall cast their light towards the face of the menorah. Seven lamps, towards the face (p’nei). Commentary explains that the six lamps, three on either side of the center lamp, had their wicks tilted towards the center lamp. Yet, this begs the question, if the verse mentions that all seven lamps shall cast their light towards the p’nei (face) of the menorah, then the Hebrew word, p’nei must represent something other than the center lamp, since it is only one of the seven. Therefore, what does the Hebrew word p’nei represent in this verse?

An answer may be given by focusing on another verse from Kitvei Kodesh (Holy Scripture), wherein a clue may be found. “In Thy behalf my heart hath said: ‘Seek ye My face’; Thy face, L-RD, will I seek” (Psalms 27:8, JPS 1917 Tanach). Consequently, the verse about the menorah could be rendered as having the light of the seven lamps glowing towards the “face of G-d.” And, what may be learned by this understanding? The light of the lamps can be seen as symbolic of our avodas (service) towards H’Shem, seven days a week. All our efforts in avodas are to culminate in seeking the face of G-d.

parashas Beha’alosecha 5780

weekly reading: The Light of Insight

B”H

Shiur for parashas Tetzaveh 5780

“Bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.” – Exodus 27:20

The light in our lives, that kindles our understanding is a gift from H’Shem, without any shadow; yet, the intuition we receive from Him is often clouded by our own perception of reality; in other words, rather than remaining pure, the vision becomes obscured. In all likelihood, the main culprit that casts a shadow upon the glimpses of wisdom that vanish, before we can procure knowledge from those flashes of insight, is the accruement of aveiros (transgressions) that create a dullness – a lacklustre – upon our hearts and minds.

Perhaps, this may be one reason that Moshe said of the final generation before Moshiach that “H’Shem will circumcise your hearts” (Deuteronomy 30:6), in the days leading towards the Final Redemption. In order to bring the unadulterated light into our lives, our hearts must be purified from the taint of the world, that has left a near indelible impression upon our thinking, viewpoints, and perspective in life. Our minds have been corroded by the zeitgeist (spirit of the time) that has pervaded every aspect of our being. Yet, we will be shown the light in due time, as we walk upon the derech (path) towards righteousness.

Torah Insight: Harmony

B”H

30 Shevat 5780

February 25, 2020

“You shall make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be made of hammered work.”

– Exodus 25:31 , JPS 1985 Tanach

The golden menorah (seven-candled lampstand) was placed directly outside of the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant rested, behind the paroches (curtain). The menorah was hammered out of one large ingot of gold. This connotes the spiritual understanding, that the light of G-d should permeate all areas of our life.

The propensity to compartmentalize different aspects of ourselves, by keeping different areas of our lives separate, may bring disharmony to the soul. We can not be whole, unless our values encompass every part of our existence, inclusive of all the activities that we engage in, as well as every moment of our day.

Light Will Prevail

B”H

erev 2 Teves 5780

– eighth night of Chanukah

Light will transcend the darkness in our lives when we cast our gaze towards the flame of truth, the eish tamid (eternal light) that is symbolized by Chanukah. The light of the Menorah in the temple, lit by the small cruze of oil found amidst the debris in the Temple, is the light of hope and renewal.

A little known midrash connects that small cruze of oil to the renewal of mankind, creation, and the earth itself, after the Mavul (Flood). When the dove brought back an olive branch in it’s mouth, according to the midrash, Noah pressed enough olive oil to place inside a small container. This cruze of oil was passed down to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Jacob returned to Beth El, he anointed the foundation stone with this oil. Then, according to the midrash, he hid the small cruze of precious olive oil.

This Place (HaMakom) was none other than Mt. Moriah, where the Temple was eventually established. Yes; because of the miracle of light that lasted for eight days from this precious oil, we celebrate Chanukah today. Midrash is not always meant to be taken literally; therefore, a symbolic viewpoint may be rendered from this particular midrash. The message of hope will be like a small flame illuminating the darkness, despite whatever circumstances may cast a shadow over our lives.

Yehi ratzon. May it be His will that the light of hope and renewal throughout the ages will always prevail over darkness. Amein.

Chanukah lights

B”H

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Each day of the eight days of Chanukah, a candle is lit, successively, so that on the first day – one candle is lit, then two candles on the eve of the second day, and so on. Yet, if you look at a menorah designed for Chanukah, there are nine candle holders. (Unless the menorah uses oil with tiny wicks, then there are nine repositories for the oil). The reason for a total of nine, is to have a place, usually in the center of the menorah, for the shamash (servant) candle, that is used to light all of the other candles. This candle is lit first; then, it shares its light with the other candles.

The tradition is reminiscent of the pasuk (verse), “In Thy light do we see light” (Psalm 36:10, JPS 1917 Tanach). H’Shem is the source of life, that bestows light upon us; we are connected, even dependent upon Him for every breathe we take. “For Thou dost light my lamp; the L-RD my G-d doth lighten my darkness” (Psalm 18:29, JPS). At the darkest time of the year, may we hope to be enlightened by H’Shem, by way of His emes (truth), and chesed (mercy), two key components of Chanukah; for His truth led us in the darkness against our enemies; and, through His mercy the few were able to defeat the many.

the Spirit of Chanukah

B”H

27 Kislev 5780

by Tzvi Schnee

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the L-RD of hosts.”

– Zechariah 4:6, JPS 1917 Tanach

The miracle of the oil that lasted eight days, giving light to the Menorah inside of the Temple, not the military victory of the Maccabees (a small group of pious Jewish fighters) over the Syrians is emphasized, as per the ruling of the Sages. We celebrate Chanukah in recognition of G-d’s Spirit enabling us to defeat our enemies, not by our own strength or strategical prowess in battle.

Likewise, in recognition of G-d’s hand in our lives, we may bravely face the day, with Him on our side; yet, at the same time, humbling ourselves before Him, inclusive of accepting His plans for us, replete with an acknowledgment of His guidance. He will not lead us astray; rather, he will lead us into victory time and time again. May we be able to conquer our inner battles, with a little help from Above.

Day Two of Chanukah

B”H

26 Kislev 5780

December 24, 2019

by Tzvi Schnee

On the first night of Chanukah, the shamash (servant) candle is lit first; then, the shamash candle is used to light the first candle, symbolic of the first day of Chanukah. On the second night of Chanukah, the shamash lights two candles. After these have been fully burned, there is a total of five candles, including two shamash candles, that have been lit so far. There are fourty-four candles in a box; so, there should be thirty-nine candles left for the succeeding days of Chanukah.

Who’s counting? I imagine that all serious seekers of meaning in every moment, as well as in all the details of the eight days of Chanukah are counting. The impression of the candles upon the mind’s eye; this remembrance fosters the imprint of the holiday throughout the eight days. Making all of our days count in the eyes of G-d is what matters. A holy remembrance of each day in the book of our lives.

“Then they that feared the L-RD spoke one with another; and the L-RD hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared the L-RD, and that thought upon His name.”

– Malachi 3:16, JPS 1917 Tanach

What is meaningful in life will be of lasting value. What may be looked back upon at the end of the day, as something of importance, will not recede readily into the past. Making the most of our time in the morning, before the day’s tasks become a blur, a whirlwind of hectic running from one place to another. A few hours quietly spent in reflection, before the day imposes its burdens upon us. Carefully chosen words, gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), and a constant focus on G-d. “I am ever mindful of the L-rd’s presence” (Psalm 16:8).

“Thou has counted my wanderings; put Thou my tears into Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?”

– Psalm 56:9, JPS 1917 Tanach