An Eternal Light for persistence and dealing with burnout
Parshah in the everyday life- Parashat Tetzaveh - Zachor - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5780
At the beginning of our Parasha, the Torah commanded to "kindling lamps regularly" לְהַעֲלֹ֥ת נֵ֖ר תָּמִֽיד in the Mishkan lamp (Shmot 27:20). What can we learn from this perpetual command about the challenge of living the "Torah in the everyday life?"
In the parallel Mitzvah in Parashat Emor, the Torah emphasizes:
מִחוּץ֩ לְפָרֹ֨כֶת הָעֵדֻ֜ת בְּאֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֗ד יַעֲרֹךְ֩ אֹת֨וֹ אַהֲרֹ֜ן מֵעֶ֧רֶב עַד־בֹּ֛קֶר לִפְנֵ֥י ה' תָּמִ֑יד...
"Aaron shall set them up in the Tent of Meeting outside the curtain of the Pact [to burn] from evening to morning before Hashem regularly..."(Vayikra 24:3)
Some have interpreted the Mitzvah 'continually' in our Parasha - to light the candles continually, even if the candles are not supposed to be lit continuously throughout the day (Rashi, Even Ezra ibid). On the other hand, there are some who explain this is the Mitzvah of the "regular" western candle, which should be lit without interruption, and from which they would light the other candles "If found blown off, should fix it and only then light from the altar for burnt offerings מִזְבַּ֥ח הָעֹלָ֖ה for it is always lit". (Ramban ibid).
What is the meaning of the fact that the Western candle has to 'always' be lit on the cold, long winter nights and the long steamy summer days?
The Menorah הַמְּנוֹרָ֔ה (Lamp) and its light are for us a model from which we can learn about coping with different challenges and the burnout. "The Menorah's reason and its lighted candles are self-evident in the light they spread, etc. That the Menorah represents the spirit and the mind, especially since the place of the lamp is before the הָאָר֥וֹן הַבְּרִ֖ית Ark of the Covenant of Hashem's Torah, etc." (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch-Truma 25)
The flame has two sides: It produces heat and light. The light is for the knowledge and wisdom. The 'warmth' is for the 'heat' of the heart, the emotions and actions done with enthusiasm, which is the complementary side of the mind.
The Sages learned from the Lamp structure, its light and place, about illuminating the wise and holy world in life:
הָרוֹצֶה לְהַחְכִּים יַדְרִים "he who wishes to acquire true wisdom should turn "southward." (Baba Batra 25b, since the "lamp" is in the south of the Tabernacle).
The lamp expresses the spirit that drives and inspires man to action: "The light shines and awakens to life etc. The spirit gives opinion, intelligence, wisdom, and all at once, it is the force that drives the moral will and moral deed, etc. In this sense, the spirit denotes the element that gives rise to our decisions for good or evil etc." (Ibid.)
But it not only inspires and motivates, but also outlines the way and the spiritual direction in life:
נֵר־לְרַגְלִ֥י דְבָרֶ֑ךָ וְ֝א֗וֹר לִנְתִיבָתִֽי׃
"Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light for my path" (Psalms 119:105).
And thus, the meaning of the "Continuous Light" is, on the one hand, an incessant non-judgmental guiding force. Like the North Star, who shines brightly and continuously throughout the night, helping those who navigate their way through dark nights and many potholes and obstacles to keep in the right direction and reach their destination.
The Menorah and its light also teach us about stability and adherence along the way: "The lamp was, of all the sacred vessels of the Temple the only one made of just metal, all gold, etc. Its uniqueness is that the material represents the property of strength, perseverance, something that is unchangeable, while form represents the trait of progressing and developing". (ibid).
On the one hand, the rigid and metallic stability of the devotion without deviation, on the other hand, it does not prevent the dynamic possibility of moving forward. To grow and develop in life.
'חום' הלב הרגש וההתלהבות גם הם קשורים ל'חום' של שלהבת נרות המנורה.
This Sabbath we will read Parashat Zachor as well:
זָכ֕וֹר אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה לְךָ֖ עֲמָלֵ֑ק ... אֲשֶׁ֨ר קָֽרְךָ֜ בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ...
"Remember what Amalek did to you… how… he surprised you on the march" (Dvarim 25:17)
In Chassidic commentary it's explained that Amalek caused the "cooling" of the heart's "warmth" and enthusiasm required in the spiritual work: "And said 'he surprised you' – that is to say he cooled you, that brought coolness and slackness in the heart, this is the root of Amalek- to cool the heart, not to seek and endeavor in Torah and reach out to Hashem." (Resisei Layla 52 - Rabbi Zadok ha-Kohen Rabinowitz of Lublin).
The 'warmth' of the heart and the emotions are also related to the 'warmth' of the Menorah flames.
In our series of articles this year, we are dealing with the challenge of implementing the Torah into modern practice. On the one hand, intense daily coping with the whole range of demanding life challenges, and on the other hand the lack of time and leisure to engage in spiritual fulfillment. This can cause erosion and gradual loss of values and spiritual habits. This is usually not a drastic and immediate change, but rather a change in small and sometimes imperceptible quantities which, over time, can become a noticeable change.
Initially, it may be expressed in the strict observance of the commandments, the Prayers with Minyan and in general, the fixed Torah learning schedule, the habits of behavior and values. And if it is not dealt with, it may also lead to erosion in the basic and deeper layers of the spiritual world, the faith and identification with the religious world.
To cope with the challenge, we must adopt the Menorah model and the persistence of the "eternal light" that constantly illuminates and guides the way. To continually produce in our hearts the inner spiritual compass that guides life and allows us to persevere and not lose direction.
To preserve the light that enlightens and gives the strength to persevere along the way and the warmth of the heart and the feeling of enthusiasm in its spiritual deeds. "To raise an eternal light" means that you will not only intend to bring up holiness and the supreme light called a candle. "Eternal" - means that you will see to it that holiness and the supreme light never leave you"(Noam Elimelech Sefer Shmot Tetzaveh 2).
To persevere, creating a spiritual anchor, an 'eternal light', within the changing and challenging realities of life, with its ups and downs, which stabilizes the whole personal and spiritual system.