This week our Torah reading is Tetzaveh. We read about the garments that will be worn by the Kohanim, the priests during Temple services. Last year I wrote about how we bring an iteration of these garments forward in our burial practices, where members of the Chevra Kadisha dress our metim, the dead, in traditional shrouds or tachrichim.
This year, this week, as we hover between changes in daylight hours, I want to address light – “And you shall command the children of Israel that they should bring to you clear olive oil, crushed for lighting, to ignite the lamp continually.”
Our work? Keep the flame lit – keep it burning and alive.
Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, in his “Torah: A Modern Commentary,” published by the Reform movement, quotes the following from the Itture Torah, an anthology of mostly Chassidic sources:
“Every Jew must light the ner tamid in his own heart, not only in the Mishkan or Ohel Moed that is in a synagogue or school. The proof text according to this commentary is that the text states in verse 27:21, outside the curtain. The Itture Torah (a large anthology of mostly Hassidic work, published in Tel Aviv in 1965 by Yavneh) sees this as analogous to streets and market places, in profane as well as sacred places and activities, in all matters relating to both each of us, as individuals, and to all of us as a human community. “
Further, Midrash teaches, “A candle of God is the soul of a person” (Proverbs 20:27). Sefat Emet takes this thought even further when he teaches that the command of Tetzaveh – (Now you shall command) – is teaching us that the more mitzvot we do, the more light we bring, which actually results in us becoming, as it were, the mitzvah we have performed. When we do a mitzvah it is as if “we had made it ourselves.” This, he teaches, is the meaning of the invocation to performing a mitzvah – asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav– “Who has made us holy through mitzvot – and then v’zitvanu – and made us into mitzvot.” Through our actions, we become light.
Beyond the synagogue, beyond the street corners we must each light our own ner tamid – within our own Mishkan. Be a ner tamid. Be a mitzvah. What an inspiring challenge!
The mornings are brighter day by day. Can we bring that light and brightness with us into our days at work, our families – our own souls? Vayehi or, let there by light.