Giving Light to One Another

In 1967, The Doors wrote their hit song “Come on Baby Light My Fire” I’m not sure Jim Morrison was thinking about the lighting of the Temple Menorah, yet that is how our Torah reading begins today. Aaron, as High Priest, is instructed in the illumination of the Menorah and to keep it lit throughout the night.[1]

This sounds great when we are talking about how in the winter cold and shortness of days, the light of the Menorah becomes a beacon for warmth and joy. Yet the Menorah was lit every day throughout the year. How can we relate to the light of the Menorah now, at the warmest time of the year with the longest days? True it is only required to be lit at night but are we only lighting it perfunctorily? Not so, says the Talmud, which asserts that by us lighting the Menorah we demonstrate that G-d’s presence is with us.[2]

How do we demonstrate G-d’s presence through kindling a flame? The lighting of the Menorah took place at parochet haedut, literally the “curtain of testimony.”[3] What is being testified to here? Rav in the Talmud stated that the western-most candle gave of its oil to light the other candles.[4] Each candle had been given the same amount of oil, yet the westernmost conserved its oil and had some left over to use to ignite the other candles the following days. It gave from its own light source to enable the others to shine.

Is this just a miraculous recounting in the Talmud, like the miracle of the Hanukkah oil lasting for eight days? Perhaps. However, there is a key lesson to be learned here: each of us can be the candle that paves the way for the others to be lit. We each have the opportunity to give of our light, of our own essence, to beautify those around us. To be the westernmost light is not always fun, for it requires not always shining forth but at times holding back to ensure that others will be able to shine. At the same time, by giving of your essence to strengthen another, you cause a greater total brightness.

This is what marriage is all about. It is taking of our own light and utilizing it to strengthen our partner. Before marriage we are the center of our lives and can use our light to blaze our own path forward. After marriage we need to conserve some of our light, our desire, our passion to make a place for that of our partner. At the same time, a greater light will now shine forth, for it is now a shared light coming from two flames. Our job is to ensure that the light will emanate forth as brightly as possible and that it will be one large, unified light, rather than completing flames.

Michael and Julie-as you approach your marriage I know you will always share your brightness, your vitality and your essence with each other, and together your light will rise ever higher and higher. As a couple, you have the opportunity to work together on a shared vision, illuminating your values and what you want to achieve together, and my prayer is that your light grows stronger and brighter each and every day. Mazal Tov on your upcoming marriage!

[1] Numbers 8:2 and Leviticus 24:3

[2] Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 22b

[3] Leviticus 24:3

[4] Ibid.

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