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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Skorka

Tetzaveh - The eternal light

Having described the Tabernacle and its furnishings in the previous parashah, this one tells of the clothes of the priests and the different rituals that occurred in it. Each ritual had a special meaning. They were actions and symbols that should serve as a source of inspiration to the people. One of the rituals was the keeping of one of the menorah lights lit constantly.

Bar Kappara (around 200 CE) teaches this about the menorah: “The Holy One, blessed be He says (to every Jew): My candle is in your hand, as it is written: ‘For the candle is the precept and the Torah is light’ (Proverbs 6: 23), and your candle is in my hand, as it is written: ‘The candle of God is the soul of man’ (Proverbs 20:27). Take care of my candle and I will take care of your candle.” (Midrash Tehilim, Mizmor 18)

The menorah of the seven arms, described in the previous parashah, and whose lighting is described in it, is the oldest symbol associated with the people of Israel. It occupied a special place in the most important site of the Sanctuary. Its fire symbolized the spirituality that was to be found in the bosom of the people.

When the Romans decided to honor the general (later emperor) Titus for his victory over the Jews by destroying the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., they built a famous arch in the Forum in Rome. On one of its interior walls one finds a bas-relief of the victory parade of the Romans. In the center of it, the menorah is clearly portrayed as the greatest trophy taken from the Jews and their destroyed Temple. The sages explained that the menorah may have been taken from Israel, but not its fire, which continues to remain in the hearts of the people and needs continually to be preserved.

Shabbat Shalom!


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