In the ever-evolving practices of Judaism, I am often impressed by what rituals and objects are carried over throughout time. In our Torah portion this week we are instructed about several ritual items, one of which remains still prominent today.
In the opening verse we read about the requirement for pure beaten olive oil for lighting the lamps, a practice which shall remain in effect for all time. From that moment on, from Temple service to today’s modern synagogues, a lamp remains lit in front of the ark. For many, the lamp is simply another piece of synagogue bima furniture. But for those who understand the importance of place, the light is a ner tamid, an eternal light that illuminates the entrance of the ark that houses the Torah scroll, the history of our birth as a people and the words of our Creator. The lamp shows us the way towards it, and in a sense shows God the way towards us; where a ner tamid is seen, Jews are also to be found.
I am not in favor of bringing back Temple worship; animal sacrifice and an inherited priesthood are practices best left in the past. But I remain inspired by the light that first shone from the original menorah and reaches forward to me, generations later and worlds away, to light my steps as both I and Judaism move forward. May your steps be equally illuminated!