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Shiurim & Adult Education
THIS WEEK'S D'VAR TORAH BY AVI SON
Parshat Beha’aloscha begins by detailing the laws and rituals pertaining to the menorah in the miskhan. In the second pasuk of the sedrah (8:2) Hashem states to Moshe “When you kindle the lamps, towards the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps be cast.” Many mefarshim commentate on the fact that the Torah stresses that all seven lamps give light. Sforno offers a particularly beautiful insight, he states that all seven lamps illuminate and shed the divine light on Israel in order to teach us that all Jews have an active role to play in bringing the light of Hashem into the world. Sforno believes that the branches on the right of the menorah represent those who permanently occupy themselves with spiritual matters as a full-time occupation, whereas the branches on the left represent those who work ordinary jobs, but who support their community either through their resources or through their time and energy. The fact all the lamps on both sides of the menorah shine this physical and spiritual light into the world teaches us that every type of Jew has a role and an obligation to bring goodness into the world, and in doing so, to increase the light of Hashem in the world.
Perhaps in this time period of increasing political polarization, where so often people find it difficult to respectfully engage with those who hold alternative views to them, we can extend Sforno’s ideas further. We can argue that everyone, whether on the left or right, should strive to bring goodness and improve the world around them, and that we should accept that every person has their role to play in this universal mission. Therefore, we should always be sure to fully respect everyone around us, even those who hold contrasting viewpoints to our own, as all the lamps of the menorah shine, so too every individual can shine and make a difference. Whilst this may seem like a nice ideal, it also may seem to be something of a distant, seemingly unattainable, dream. Yet the Torah prescribes for us the exact method of how it is possible, in the aforementioned pasuk we stated “toward the face of the menorah shall seven lamps cast light.” Rashi tells us that this means that the outer lamps of the menorah all faced inwards towards the middle lamp. This middle lamp represents Hashem, and the holy spirituality of the divine Shechinah, which all the other lamps shined their light towards.
When we, as individuals, use our unique talents, skill and abilities in order to glorify ourselves and our personal viewpoints, this is when we can become divisive and when it becomes impossible for us to respect those who are different from ourselves, or those who hold different viewpoints. However, when we use our individual abilities, our personal light, in order to shine light upon Hashem and bring more of His goodness in the world around us, this is when we can become united in common purpose with those around us, as the things which divide us seem trivial in comparison. Hopefully, we can all take this lesson on board, every individual has a role, every person has a unique light which they can bring to the world, wherever they fall on the left or right side of the menorah branch. The question is simply what we do with that light, whether we use it in order to try and glorify ourselves and try and make ourselves the sole focus of attention, or whether we work with all those around us to shine the ultimate light, the ultimate goodness, into the world.