Parshat Beha’alotcha

Torah Reading for Week of June 7 – June 13, 2009

“Shining Our Light”

by Rabbi Paul Shleffar, ’06
Director, Center for Contemporary Jewish Spirituality

G-d Spoke to Moses, saying, speak to Aaron and tell him “In your going up to light the lamps, the light of the seven lamps shall shine forward.”

The High Priest is instructed to kindle the lamps that are to burn continually. It is interesting that in this Parsha following the instructions for the kindling of the lamps, we also find the instructions for the Pesach offerings in the wilderness. The Rabbis of the Talmud, in Pesachim, which begins with the word ohr or light, outline the search for Chametz in dark and hidden places, discussing in great detail, among other things, how far back one must search in one’s wine cellar to findChametz. It is in this relationship between the kindling of the eternal light and the imperative to seek out and illuminate the dark and hidden that I believe we can find relevant meaning and instruction for how to live our lives.

We are being asked to constantly kindle our inner light, but even more than this we are being urged to shine a continual bright light in those dark corners of our psyches, searching out and removing that which threatens to harm our internal balance, that which harms our ability to relate with others and ultimately with the Divine. This is according to the Jewish mystics, our only purpose for having been created, and there is no greater joy in this world than to fulfill one’s purpose. The 20th century Chasidic master, the Sfat Emet, had this to say, “…This process is dependent on the light within us: the more we expand and grow our souls, the more G-d is revealed in every place. This is the meaning of “when the Lord your G-d expands your borders” – the light reveals itself and there is an expansion within the totality of the human soul.

This then is our charge: to rise up using our highest self – our inner High priest – constantly shining our light in search of our destiny and constantly on guard for anything that could stand in the way of our performing it. This work is not for ourselves, but for each other and for all created beings, anything that contains a bit of Divine light. It is in doing this that we become a ‘light unto the nations’ and ‘a nation of priests’ all aligned as one.

Shabbat Shalom.

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