Gift giving is an interesting activity. As Purim is right around the corner, we will soon have a specific holiday obligation to offer gifts to friends and those in need. Leaving charity aside for a moment, when I give a gift to a loved one, I do not give the gift because they actually need the item or the experience. I want to see the look in the person’s eyes when they open it. That look that tells me that this person needs me. That look is more important than any specific thing.
This week we read from Parshat Tetzaveh. God instructs Moses, “You shall further command the Israelites to bring you pure oil of beaten olives for the light, so that a lamp may be set up to burn regularly/וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד.” The question is, why is this commandment important or meaningful? Why do we need to regularly or consistently light this lamp? The Rabbis offer one explanation. “‘I do not need your light. But I want to give you an opportunity to light for Me like I have lit for you.’…this can be compared to a seeing person who leads a blind person as they travel along the road together. When they come to the house, the seeing person says to the blind one, ‘Please go and light a candle for me.’ To this the blind person replies, ‘I do not understand. As long as we were travelling, you supported and guided me. Why do you now ask me to light a candle for you?’ To this the seeing person responds, ‘I want to give you an opportunity to pay me back so that you do not feel an ongoing debt of gratitude.’”
This is a fascinating teaching. The Rabbis explain that God does not need the lamp. God does not even really need the light. What does God need? This is about being in relationship. We have been given a tremendous gift. The Torah is the great light that has been bequeathed to us. And God is placing a lamp before us as if to say, “you will not have to worry about repaying me for the kindness. We are engaged in a relationship of constant giving and receiving. Every day I make the sun rise and re-give you Torah so that you may see the world as it should be. And everyday you will offer me yourself, so that we can be together. I do not need your light. I need you.”
The Sfas Emes further teaches that it is our mission as Jews to look for the holy light in everything and lift it up, back to its source in heaven. That there is a light inside of every person and thing. “To set up/לְהַעֲלֹת” the lamp is really to raise up the light so that everyone can see that it comes from the Source of All. “Consistently/תָּמִיד” means that God is always a part of every person and thing. When we look for it, we will find it.
On this Shabbat, we have a duty to remember. Traditionally we remember the evil that Amalek thrust upon us. This week, let us also remember that their evil was perpetrated because they did not see God in every human and everything. Let us act differently. By seeing the holiness around us, and raising it up, we will be repaying God for the kindness bestowed on this world, for creating it with such multitude, wonder and diversity.
 Mishloah Manot
 Matanot L’Evyonim
 Ex. 27:20
 Ex. Rab. 36:2 (also Num. Rab. 15:6)
 אורייתא/oraita which is the Aramaic term for Torah means The Light.
 Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (Hebrew יהודה אריה ליב אלתר, 15 April 1847 – 11 January 1905), also known by the title of his main work, the Sfas Emes (Yiddish) or Sefat Emet שפת אמת (Hebrew), was a Hasidic rabbi who succeeded his grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, as the Av beis din (head of the rabbinical court) and Rav of Góra Kalwaria, Poland (known in Yiddish as the town of Ger), and succeeded Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin of Aleksander as Rebbe of the Gerrer Hasidim
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.