"Make a lampstand of pure gold. Hammer out its base and shaft, and make its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them. Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand-three on one side and three on the other." - Exodus 25:31-32
The Torah portion for this week is Terumah, which means "contributions," from Exodus 25:1-27:19, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 5:26-6:13.
In this week's Torah reading, we learn about the details concerning the construction of the Tabernacle and the vessels it contained. While it might be easy to gloss over these sections, thinking they are meaningless and irrelevant today as there is no Tabernacle or Holy Temple, each detail and each instruction contains deep symbolism and wisdom for us all. The mysteries of the Tabernacle are deep and the secrets that they hold for us are enlightening.
The Jewish sages teach that Moses struggled greatly with the construction of the Temple's menorah. God taught him the meaning of the menorah, but the hard part was giving the ideas a physical form. The menorah wasn't simply a lampstand; it was a symbol of the Torah and its light.
Let's take a look at the physical description of the menorah. It had a central trunk and six branches on either side. It had flowers, buds, and blossoms. The menorah, quite obviously, resembled a tree. We read in Proverbs 3:18 about the Torah that "She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed." The menorah, as a representation of the Torah, is appropriately fashioned after a tree - a tree of life.
Here are but a few lessons that we can learn from the menorah and the secrets that it holds.
Firstly, the menorah, like a tree, represents growth. Studying the Torah is all about growth. It's about starting our lives on one level and finishing on another. If we are not growing, we are not living. Life is about change - and hopefully for the better.
Secondly, the menorah contains symbols referring to different seasons. There are flowers, but there are also buds and blossoms. Just as a tree goes through changes and seasons, so do our lives. There are times that are full of flowers and times that things are just starting to bud. There are times that our branches seem bare and times that we are in full bloom. The trick is to appreciate the season that we are in and come closer to God in all seasons.
Finally, the menorah has a firm base with arms stretching upward. The flame on top of every branch reaches heavenward. Likewise, a tree is deeply rooted in the earth, yet its branches stretch up to the heavens. We, too, need to live our lives firmly planted on earth, and yet at all times, we must strive upward, toward God.
This week, let's take the light and the lessons of the menorah into our lives. Let us continually work for growth, change, and closeness to God by holding firm to His Word, the tree of life and source of all blessings.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President