Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Arise Shine for Your Light is Come

A Bat Ayin Sunset
 Dear Friends,
We welcome some of the new friends whom I met on my North America tour to our weekly list. Once again thank you to all the wonderful hosts, organizers, advertisers, airport pick-uppers, and attendees. Without you, we would never have reached our fundraising goals.

Baruch Hashem we were able to increase our building fund with a dedication for the Art and Meditation Veranda. The dedications for the first building are almost “sold out”. Dedication opportunities remain only for panoramic and regular windows, for doors, and for the movable room divider. Respond to this email if you are interested in dedicating before it is too late. 

Our weekly parasha meditation focuses on the mitzvah to ignite the candles in the Tabernacle and on the nature of the eternal middle candle. We will visualize how every mitzvah that we do ignite our eternal candle.

Shabbat Shalom!
With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Click here to read "Purim and Unity" by Rabbi Yosef Benarroch

Parasha Meditation Tetzaveh
Shemot 27:20-30:10
Parashat Tetzaveh opens with the instruction for lighting the eternal candelabrum:
וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד: ספר שמות פרק כז:כ
“You shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure olive oil beaten for lighting, to raise up the candle to burn eternally.”[1] Malbim explains the unusual language:”וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה” –“You shall command” to imply something which must be done quickly, immediately and for all generations to come. Even when the Temple was destroyed and the candles were abolished, behold we continue to light them in the synagogues which are called a small sanctuary [2] (מקדש מעט)

The word תְּצַוֶּה has the exact same numerical value (גמטריה-gematria) as the words נשים צוה – meaning, “He commanded the women.” Therefore, the Torah verse obligating the kindling of the eternal light in the sanctuary alludes to women’s responsibility to light the Shabbat candles in the home. The numerical value of the word “beaten” in Hebrew כָּתִית – (katit) is 830. This equals the accumulative years of the two first temples. The first temple stood for 410 years, the second temple for 420 years together this adds up to 830. Scripture thus alludes to the fact that the menorah will be lit in the temples which will stand for כָּתִית years. [3] Whereas the two first temples will light for a limited period as it states כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר – “beaten for lighting,” the third temple will remain forever, as the verse continues: לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד – “to raise up the candle to burn eternally” – Its light will never be extin­guished.[4]

King Solomon’s glorious temple had special windows from which the light would emanate to the world as it states, “For the house he made windows wide without, and narrow within.”[5] Whereas, the windows of regular palaces are wide within and narrow without, in order to cause light to enter into them, the windows of the temple were opposite in order to bring forth a great light.[6] G-d created everything including the light. Therefore He does not need anyone to light for Him. Likewise, the Talmud learns from our Torah verse that we are obligated to light the candles for our own sake, rather than for G-d’s sake, as it states, “…that they bring you pure olive oil…” Hashem commands “‘אליך – for you’ but not ‘for me,’ for I do not need the light.”[7]

The word לְהַעֲלֹת (leha’alot-to raise up) is missing a vav to hint to the fact that the vav (6) candles are extinguished and rekindled, while only the middle candle lights perpetually.[8] This is also why it states, “to raise up the candle” in singular rather than “candles” in plural. G-d intended that within each part of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) there would be a testimony that His Divine presence dwells among Israel. In the Holy of Holiest the Ark gave faithful testimony that the Divine presence rested there. The Tablets contained within it could be read from both sides, with the mem and samech miraculously not falling out. In the Tent of Meeting, Hashem’s light shone from the eternal middle candle. Everyone would look at it, and see the name of Hashem, dwelling within them.[9] This candle is similar to the Ark, since they both witness G-d’s presence. Two witnesses are required as it states “according to the testimony of two…”[10]

The candle, which symbolizes the words of Torah, is considered guide to life, safeguarding us from stumbling. Whoever performs a mitzvah sustains his soul, and is considered as if he lit a candle before G-d as it states: אָדָם נֵר הַשֵם נִשְׁמַת – A candle of G-d is the soul of man.[11] The benefit of the candle is that it purifies the soul. [12] Candles differ from any material good in this world, which becomes reduced when shared with others. Yet, from one candle you can kindle 1000 candles without diminishing the light of the original candle. In the same way, through fulfilling a mitzvah even if it seemingly comprise expense and effort, we do not get depleted but rather recharged with renewed spiritual energy.

Sit comfortably in your chair and close your eyes. Take several deep breaths and imagine you are an unlit candle. Get in touch with the yearning to become lit. Let your mind travel back to search for mitzvot (Torah commandments) you performed. It could be visiting the sick, dancing vigorously at a wedding, rejoicing with the bride, keeping the dietary laws scrupulously, giving tzedaka (charity) etc. Focus in on one of the mitzvot that you especially performed with your entire heart. Visualize how this mitzvah acts like a spark that ignites your wick, and imagine how you begin to glow with bright orange light. Your flame grows stronger and your whole body becomes enlightened. Feel yourself radiating this warm light, as you slowly inhale and exhale. Inhale as you visualize the word נֵר – candle, exhale as you visualize the word תָּמִיד – eternal. G-d’s candle burns perpetually within your soul. Keep repeating the breathing, visualizing the word נֵר on the in-breath, and the word תָּמִיד on the outbreath for eight times.[13]

Your light is like the brightness of wisdom driving away the darkness of ignorance. You are the bright radiant light. Feel yourself pulsating, expanding, your light shining forth further and further until it illuminates your entire house. Allow your inner flame to reach out even further until it fills your whole neighborhood. Your neighborhood is illuminated by your glowing light. Imagine your candle traveling even further out to your entire country and still further to encompass the whole universe. You fill the entire world with your light, illuminating every space to break through any darkness and blockage within the world and yourself. Continue glowing with this orange light in all directions, eradicating darkness from without and within.

Why is the commandment to light the menorah placed before all the vessels of the Mishkan?

The kindling of the candelabrum is the only Temple service described in the book of Shemot. Only the vessels of the Mishkan and their places are delineated here. The mitzvah to light the menorah precedes the rest of the worship of the Mishkan described in the book of Vayikra, because kindling the candles is the purpose of the entire Temple worship. Igniting the candelabrum symbolizes the elevation of the soul towards the Divine light by keeping the mitzvot of the Torah.[14] The soul of humanity is compared to light [15] the Torah is compared to light: “For a candle is a Mitzvah and the Torah is light.”[16] Israel will become the light of the world: “Nations will walk in your light.”[17] G-d is the light of the individual: “G-d is my light and my salvation,”[18] and He is the light of Israel: “Arise shine for your light is come.”[19]

[1] Shemot 27:20
[2] Midrash Hagadol, Vayikra 6:3
[3] Ba’al HaTurim, Shemot 27:20
[4] Toldot Yitzchak, Shemot 27:20
[5] I Kings 6:4
[6] Vayikra Rabah 31:7
[7] Ba’al HaTurim quoting Babylonian Talmud, Menachot 86b
ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך" אמר רבי שמואל בר נחמני אליך ולא לי לא לאורה אני צריך "
[8] Ba’al Haturim, Shemot 27:20
[9] Kli Yakar, ibid.
[10] Devarim 17:6, Babylonian Talmud, Sota 31:2
[11] Mishlei 20:27
[12]Shemot Rabah 36:3
[13] Number eight symbolizes eternity, see Maharal, Ner Mitzvah, p. 23
[14] Nechama Leibowitz on Shemot 27:20
[15] See Mishlei 20:27 quoted above before footnote 10
[16] Ibid. 6:23 כִּי נֵר מִצְוָה וְתוֹרָה אוֹר
[17] Yesha’yahu 60:3 וְהָלְכוּ גוֹיִם לְאוֹרֵךְ
[18] Tehillim 27:1 יְדֹוָד אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי
[19] Yesha’yahu 60:1 קוּמִי אוֹרִי כִּי בָא אוֹרֵךְ

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