We are used to looking at the seven branched menorah as the symbol of modern Israel, as well as a reminder of the menorah that was used in the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This powerful image has appeared in almost every place where Jewish people have gathered. It is possible to spend a life-time studying the many lessons and “truths” that are to be learned from the menorah’s structure and usage.
For this week, I would like to focus on Aaron’s role and what we can learn from it. In our Torah portion, we read that “Aaron is to cause the fires of these eternal lamps to be kindled each day.”
The Hebrew word which begins our portion, “b’haalot’cha,” has been translated and interpreted in many ways. The new JPS translates: “When you mount the lamps.” Others write “when you cause these lamps to go (up) higher”. The tradition has these and other interesting ways of making us aware of the many levels of understanding the multi-dimensional meanings of the Torah.
In a following verse we read “that Aaron did so.”
That is used to teach us that day after day, year after year, he had to climb up, trim the wicks, make sure that there was enough pure olive oil, and light the lamps in a specific order. He did these tasks while remembering that he was fulfilling a command and performing a “holy act.” He was able to maintain a “higher vision” of what he was doing and did not allow it to become a burdensome task.
This ability allows most people to live purposeful and meaningful lives. Getting up each morning and “running through” our daily routines can be overwhelming or mechanical. How much joy can be gained when we strive to look above and ahead and realize that we are experiencing an aspect of the “divine.”
When we make the same peanut butter and jelly sandwich every school day for years, we do it because it needs to be done, as well as knowing that we are helping our children to function in their world.
When we follow the rituals of civic duty and participation, we are able to be aware that a community, a town, or a country can only function and grow when we do what is expected and needed of us.
As the link in the ongoing chain of Jewish continuity, we can do what must be done to maintain our identity and purpose as a “people with a mission,” an ever- evolving “am kadosh.”
The fire, the energy, can warn us, show us the way, and be helpful as long as we approach it with awareness of power that we posses to insure that it is always put in a positive direction.