Elevate the World with Light

Yael Eckstein  |  June 13, 2022

Yael Eckstein lights Hanukkah menorah with son

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the lamps, see that all seven light up the area in front of the lampstand.’” — Numbers 8:1-2

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Behaalotecha, which means “when you raise up,” from Numbers 8:1–12:16.

If you have ever walked around in the Old City of Jerusalem, you may have seen a large gold candelabra, a menorah, in a big glass case. This menorah is a replica of the original candelabra that stood in the Temple thousands of years ago.

Whenever I walk by the big gold menorah, I think about the Holy Temple and how it’s been almost 2,000 years since it was destroyed by the Romans. I think about what it will be like when this beautiful gold menorah is finally moved into the newly rebuilt Temple of the future.

The menorah is one of the main symbols of the Jewish people. It represents our call to be “a light to the nations” (Isaiah 51:4).

Elevate the World with Light

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the original lighting of the menorah by Aaron, the first High Priest of Israel. God instructed Aaron, “When you set up the lamps, see that all seven light up the area in front of the lampstand.”

The Hebrew translated here as “when you set up” is behaalotecha, the word that gives this week’s Torah portion its name. The literal translation of behaalotecha is “when you elevate.” The Hebrew for “set up” or “light up” is not used here.

The unusual word choice here in the Bible teaches us a beautiful lesson. Light represents thought and knowledge, just like a lightbulb in comics or cartoons. But it’s true in every language on earth. When we speak of “illuminating” a subject, we mean explaining or expanding our knowledge of it.

But the mission of God’s people is not merely to share knowledge or inform. When we spread light to dark places, our job is “to elevate” the world. And as the rabbis explain, the menorah was not for God. God doesn’t need a candelabra. The menorah was in the Temple for us, to remind us of our mission to be “elevate” the world with our light.

Your Turn:

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