This week’s parsha, Beha’alotcha begins with the sentence, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and say to him, when you mount the lamps, let the seven lamps give light at the front of the lampstand.’”
We know how important the menorah is to Judaism, perhaps the best-known symbol of Judaism. And here God is commanding the construction of the menorah, apparently so complicated that God has to SHOW Moshe what it will eventually look like.
The beginning of this Torah portion is read twice a year, for this week, and on the last day of Hanukkah. The haftarah is also done twice a year, this week and on the Shabbat of Hanukkah. Both speak of the lighting of a seven branched lampstand or menorah. (This is different from the lampstand we use on Hanukkah, which has nine branches.) It was the responsibility of the priests to keep the lamps lit at all times.
Light is a powerful metaphor used not only in Judaism but in many other spiritual traditions. And even in the secular world, we can think of words like enLIGHTENment or the phrase “I see the light.” Think about that visual metaphor we see so often in cartoons where the main character is shown with a light bulb going off over his head. We all know that that person just got an idea.
In the world of religion, Light can be a metaphor for God, spirit, the soul, the mind, or even human consciousness. The book of Proverbs teaches that “the soul of man is the light of God.” We recall God’s creation of the world, where in the third verse of Breishit, God says “let there be light,” and He separates the light from the darkness--- because the light, as God pronounces, is good. We separate Shabbat from the rest of the week through the lighting of candles. And the Torah is seen as its own kind of light. Our sages tell us that every word in the Torah shines like a light.
What an act of love it must have been for God to give Aaron this awesome responsibility.