Weekly Torah Commentary – Tetzaveh Feb. 11, 2011

In the opening verses of this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, we read the commandment to light the Menorah “continually.”

The word “continually” arrests our attention and begs the question: How could Hashem issue this command when He surely knew that the Mishkan (Tabernacle) would not last forever and neither would the Temple.  For centuries we have been without the Temple and therefore without the Menorah which renders us unable to light the seven-branch candelabra “continually”.  How then are we to understand this mitzvah?

Every vessel in the Mishkan had a literal, physical existence but also a spiritual depth of meaning.  The Menorah was — and is — a symbol of Israel as a light to the nations, Israel’s holy calling.   It is a two-fold symbol.  As klal Yisrael, the community of Israel, the nation’s mission is to be that light to the nations.  But the corporate light is only as bright as the light emanating from each individual Jew.  Each person’s light adds to the corporate brightness and impacts the world for Hashem’s sake.   Therefore, the Menorah throughout the ages stands as a reminder to every child of Israel in every generation that just as the priests lit the Menorah daily in the Temple, so we have the responsibility to do the same today — to kindle fresh light within our own souls each new dawn.

How do we do that?

Morning prayer is the important beginning.  Upon awakening, even before getting up from the bed, devout Jews say the ‘Modei Ani’ prayer which is an expression of thanksgiving for the gift of a new day.  Time for prayer in the morning for the purpose of nourishing our soul’s light is as important to our spiritual health as eating a proper breakfast is to our physical health.   For many people, prayer before breakfast is the norm and rightly so, for spiritual nourishment is the higher priority.

It is written of Moshe Rabeinu, whose yartzeit we observe today, the 7th of Adar on the Hebrew calendar, that when he descended from Mt. Sinai, his face shone with such light that it was necessary for him to put a veil over his face.  Where did such a powerful light come from?  The time he spent in the very presence of Hashem, the Holy One of Israel.

We are not of the exalted spiritual level of Moshe Rabeinu – true.  However, should we not desire and aspire to be a vessel of Hashem’s light to the greatest degree possible?  Yes, we should.  The means to that end is available to us, albeit in a less dramatic way than what Moshe experienced.

If you and I are diligent in giving liberally of our time to prayer, to bathing our souls in the presence of Hashem, the light that is ISRAEL would shine brighter and brighter, kiddush Hashem (to the honor of the Holy One).

In Tune with Torah this week = Faithfully devote yourself to consistent times of devoted and focused prayer that your light will increase in this world and spread abroad to enlighten the lives of others.

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