The Glow of Ner Tamid -
20 You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly. 21 Aaron and his sons shall set them up in the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain which is over [the Ark of] the Pact, [to burn] from evening to morning before the Lord. It shall be a due from the Israelites for all time, throughout the ages.
This is from the beginning of this Shabbat’s Torah portion Tetzaveh. Leviticus 27:20. The Israelites have been instructed to build the Mishkan, the dwelling place for God in the desert. They have been instructed to build the Tent, the altar, and the Golden Menorah. In this week’s portion we are given the instructions for the clothing for the High Priests and as well as the instructions for their anointing ceremony. But this opening verse literally illumines the Holy Meeting Place of God. With the pure olive oil given by the Israelites -the ner tamid, the lamps will shine continually, Today the Ner Tamid in the synagogue, the Eternal Light signifies God’s Holy Eternal Presence. And then too, in the tabernacle it was the same. This regularly kindled lamp burned with the sweet olive oil provided by the people. God’s symbolic Presence was the transformation of the kindling fuel into the flames of Divinity. When we kindle light today–whether by the beautiful Sabbath candles, Havdalah wicks, or Chanukah Menorah or the Eternal Light in the Sanctuary we are reminded of this warmth of God’s embrace, the light of the Holy Presence in our midst, the glow of family and friendships. May they burn ever brightly.
God is in the Building
This week’s Torah portion is parshat Terumah. One of my very favorite Torah portions. It is important because God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites to build the Tabernacle in the desert. This would become the place God would dwell. But the Torah portion is very interesting because we assume we are building God’s home on earth. But the Hebrew tells another story. It tells us that God will dwell in our midst. Not in it. Thus the very project of building together. Of creating together is the place where the Divine dwells. Not really in the Tabernacle. This should teach us an important lesson that in our world we find God in the midst of action and creation. We find God when we cooperate and collaborate together in a larger design, in building something that stand for goodness and holiness.
Perhaps this should be our approach to our world. When we build a world filled with love as my friend and teacher Rabbi Menachem Creditor sings, Olam Chesed Yibaneh, this is really what God wants of us. This is the example in this week’s Torah portion. We ought to strive for this together.