Posted on March 23, 2011
by Stefanie Groner
In this week’s parsha, Tetzaveh, we read some gory details of sacrificial offerings and a few laws about burning incense in the tabernacle. God also instructs Moses about the garments Aaron should wear as high priest. The richness of materials, from pure gold and jewels to pomegranates and turquoise fabrics, denotes the power and responsibility the Kohen Gadol has in the community. Moshe is instructed to involve himself in three specific tasks: delegating the work of building the tabernacle, designating the kohanim within the community, and finding a continual supply of the purest oil to maintain a flame.
The one part of Tetzaveh which most stands out to me is the commandment of burning clear olive oil continuously in the tabernacle, the eternal flame. Artscroll describes the eternal flame as “the light of wisdom and holiness illuminating Israel’s pursuits.”
The clarity of the oil and the effervescence of the flame coalesce to represent core ideas of Judaism. We are people who have spent hours working toward finding clarity within our texts. We have endured countless trials and tribulations throughout history. And still, the flame persists.
From a kabbalist standpoint, each soul is like its own flame. While I am by no means a kabbalist, this particular teaching strikes a chord with me. Perhaps the eternal flame is designed to serve as a reminder of the flame in each of us. We should each try to kindle a fire, a passion we have for Judaism, with pure intentions like the clarity of the olive oil used in the tabernacle. We have a commitment to keep our own flames burning with our own connection to Judaism. Whether your flame burns from praying daily, helping out in your community, supporting Israel, or just singing ruach songs with your USY friends, Tetzaveh teaches us the importance of kindling an eternal flame.
The eternal light serves as a reminder that the Jewish community and it’s connection to God persists from the generation when Moses received these commandments to the generation that sees the little flame flicker above the ark in our synagogue chapels. In the words of Peter, Paul, and Mary, “Don’t let the light go out; it’s lasted for so many years.”
Take this Shabbat to think about the flame inside of you to strengthen your connection to Judaism and the Jewish community at large.