Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Candles of Eternity

Rebbetzin with B'erot student Chana
 at her engagement party
Our weekly parasha focuses on the mitzvah to ignite the candles in the Tabernacle which the woman extends by lighting the Shabbat candles in her home. Just as the middle candle in the Menorah never burned out, so does our personal light burn brightly for all eternity. Each and every Jew has our own special light which is activated through performing a mitzvah. We can experience this light by strengthening our mindfulness through intentional visualization. 

Our Parasha Meditation helps us get in touch with our personal eternal candle by focusing on how to ignite ourselves and our environment. Through guided imagery we will visualize how every mitzvah that we perform ignite our eternal candle. 

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Tetzaveh- The Power of Visualization

Parasha Meditation Tetzaveh
Shemot 27:20-30:10
The Candles of Eternity
Parashat Tetzaveh opens with the instruction for lighting the eternal candelabrum:
 ספר שמות פרק כז:כ וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד
“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”/ v’ata tetzaveh –“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 - מקדש מעט /mikdash me’at.[2]

Women’s Mitzvah
The word תְּצַוֶּה/tetzaveh has the exact same numerical value (גמטריה/gematria) as the words נשים צוה/ nashim tzivah –“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.[3] Although the mitzvah to light the Shabbat candles is from the Rabbis and not explicitly stated in the Torah, through this allusion the Torah empowers women with the ability of igniting the holiness of the Temple into our homes. The mitzvah of lighting the Shabbat candles pertains to women more than to men.[4] Even if the husband also wants to light Shabbat candles, the wife takes precedence.[5] The importance of the Shabbat candles is highlighted by the halachic fact that if one cannot afford both shabbat candles and wine for Kidush, Shabbat candles take precedence.[6]

An Allusion to the Three Temples
“…that they bring you pure olive oil beaten for lighting.”[7] 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. [8] Whereas the two first temples will light for a limited period as it states כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר/katit l’meor – “beaten for lighting,” the third temple will remain forever, as the verse continues: לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד/l’ha’a lot ner tamid – “to raise up the candle to burn eternally” – Its light will never be extin­guished.[9]

Igniting Ourselves
The glorious Temple built by King Solomon 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.”[10] 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 inside out.[11] 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 “אֵלֶיךָ”/elecha – ‘for you’ but not ‘for me,’ for I do not need the light.”[12] By lighting the candelabrum we ignite and illuminate ourselves with Hashem’s eternal light.

The Candles of Shalom Bayit – Peace in the Home
The teaching from last week’s parasha: “Make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell within them”[13] – meaning within each of us, is specifically fulfilled through the lighting of the menorah, by which we cause the Shechina to dwell in our midst. The Shabbat candles that a woman lights likewise cause the Shechina to enter into our homes. This explains the importance of the mitzvah of lighting the Shabbat candles which precedes even the lighting of the Chanukah candles for the sake of Shalom Bayit – peace in the home.[14] We can now understand why the Shabbat candles bring peace in the home even today when we have electric light and don’t need these candles for physical light. Lighting the Shabbat candles causes the Divine indwelling Presence to dwell in the home between husband and wife, by igniting the י/yud of the אִיש/ish – man and the ה/heh of the אִישָה/isha – woman. These two letters comprise one of Hashem’s holy names through which peace in the home shines forth.

Eternal Witness
The word לְהַעֲלֹת/leha’a lot – 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.[15] This is also why it states, “to raise up the candle” in singular rather than “candles” in plural. Hashem 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 Holies 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.[16] 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…”[17]

Spiritual Recharge
The candle, which symbolizes the words of Torah, is considered a 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/ner Hashem nishmat adam – A candle of G-d is the soul of man.[18] The benefit of the candle is that it purifies the soul. [19] Candles differ from other goods in this world, which becomes reduced when shared with others. From one candle you can kindle thousands of candles without diminishing the light of the original candle. In the same way, when we fulfill a mitzvah even if it seemingly comprises expense and effort, we do not get depleted but rather recharged with renewed spiritual energy.

Sit comfortable in your chair and close your eyes.

1. Take several deep breaths and imagine you are an unlit candle. Get in touch with the yearning to become lit.

2. Allow 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.

3. Focus in on one of the mitzvoth that you especially performed with your entire heart.

4. Visualize how this mitzvah acts like a spark that ignites your wick, and imagine how you begin to glow with a 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.

5. Inhale as you visualize the word נֵר/ner – candle, exhale as you visualize the word תָּמִיד/tamid – eternal. G-d’s candle burns perpetually within your soul. Keep repeating the breathing, visualizing the word נֵר/ner on the in-breath, and the word תָּמִיד/tamid on the outbreath for eight times.[20]

6. 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.

7. You fill the entire world with your light, illuminating every space to break through any darkness and blockage within yourself and the world. Continue glowing with this orange light in all directions, eradicating darkness from within and without.

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. Besides this service, 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.[21] The soul of humanity is compared to light[22] the Torah is compared to light: “For a candle is a Mitzvah and the Torah is light.”[23] Israel will become the light of the world: “Nations will walk in your light.”[24] G*d is the light of the individual: “G*d is my light and my salvation,”[25] and He is the light of Israel: “Arise shine for your light is come.”[26]

[1] Shemot 27:20.
[2] Midrash Hagadol, Vayikra 6:3.
[3] Ba’al HaTurim, Shemot 27:20.
[4] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 263:3.
[5] Mishna Brura, Ibid.
[6] Shulchan Aruch, Ibid.
[7] Shemot 27:20.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Toldot Yitzchak, Shemot 27:20.
[10] I Kings 6:4.
[11] Vayikra Rabah 31:7.
[12] 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 - תלמוד בבלי מסכת מנחות דף פו/ב
[13] Shemot 25:8.
[14] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 263:3.
[15] Ba’al Haturim, Shemot 27:20.
[16] Kli Yakar, ibid.
[17] Devarim 17:6, Babylonian Talmud, Sota 31:2.
[18] Mishlei 20:27.
[19] Shemot Rabah 36:3.
[20] Number eight symbolizes eternity, see Maharal, Ner Mitzvah, p. 23.
[21] Nechama Leibowitz on Shemot 27:20.
[22] See Mishlei 20:27 quoted above before footnote 10.
[23] Ibid. 6:23 כִּי נֵר מִצְוָה וְתוֹרָה אוֹר/ki ner mitzvah v’Torah ohr.
[24] Yesha’yahu 60:3 וְהָלְכוּ גוֹיִם לְאוֹרֵךְ/vehalchu goyim le’orech.
[25] Tehillim 27:1 הָשֵם אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי/Hashem ori v’yishi.
[26] Yesha’yahu 60:1 קוּמִי אוֹרִי כִּי בָא אוֹרֵךְ/kumi ori ki va orech.

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