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Drash on Parashah Beha'alotecha

Drash on Parashat Beha'alotecha
Rabbi Orna Triguboff
Emanuel Synagogue
Woollahra, New South Wales

"Light on Beha’alotecha"

In this week’s Torah portion, we hear about Aharon, the High Priest being instructed to light the menorah-candelabrum in the desert sancturary of the Children of Israel. Our Sages connect the lighting of the menorah lamp with the concept of bringing light to our soul, “the lamp of G-d is the soul of a person” (Proverbs 20:27)

Seven lamps signify seven qualities, middot, that can bring light to our soul. Positive qualities to foster are of course innumerable. Some key ones given by the musar (ethics) movement are: compassion, discernment, kindness, passion, humility, generosity, and leadership. Developing these qualities is akin to lighting up one’s soul.

To light the menorah one needed to step up on a stool. This is symbolic of the steps we need to take before results show. There is an acknowledgement that there is often a time lag between making steps to self-improvement, and the changes being visible. Just by ascending onto the stool we come closer to the light.

Sages relate the lighting of the menorah, not only to the light we can ignite in our own soul, but the light we can bring to others. It is an invitation to look for the positive in others and help bring light to their souls…and maybe to allow others to bring light to us.

Don’t hurry! The phrase “When you raise the lamps” is understood as an invitation to think about how a lamp is lit. A flame from one lamp is held to an unlit wick. Once the initial kindling occurs, it’s best to let the original flame be close to the new one for a while just to make sure the other one is going to remain lit. Similarly, when we give of our own light, we should stay a while, not leave in a rush.

When Aharon lit the menorah he kindled the lamps so that they shone towards the ‘face’ of the menorah – the centre of the menorah – meaning that once the flame of our soul is lit, there is still work to do, to keep the light shining towards the “essential good”. The work of teshuvah-self assessment is constant.

And yes, yes, there is only so much we can GIVE!

Also in this week’s Torah portion, the Children of Israel begin complaining to Moshe about their dissatisfaction with the manna. They want meat. Moshe is totally depleted – can you relate to that? He asks G-d: “Did I conceive these people or give birth to them?...I cannot alone bear this people myself, alone – it is too heavy for me!”

We are invited to remember that at times we can be overwhelmed by the weight of life’s challenges. We make some time this week to acknowledge that some of us are struggling to the point where it is unbearable.

G-d replies to Moshe that he should find 70 elders and they will be appointed to share the burden of responsibility with him. Maybe one of the blessings we can receive from this week’s portion is to remember that sometimes help is there is we reach out for it.

May we be blessed with the ability to find light in our soul, to find help when we need it and to bring light where it is needed.

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