Friday, February 15, 2008

Not quite the far side...

As the usual poster of this little tidbit on SerandEz is traveling, I took the liberty of posting a replacement d'var Torah. While I might not be quite as entertaining as the master of wit himself, this has a really nice message that I think can speak to all of us.

In chapter 27 of our weekly portion, Tetzaveh, G-d commands Moshe to tell the Jews as follows:

כ. וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית--לַמָּאוֹר: לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר, תָּמִיד.
20. And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.

This is an interesting term used here - לְהַעֲלֹת, literally, "to raise." What does it mean to raise a flame?

Rashi explains on the words "לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר, תָּמִיד" that this means that it is necessary to light the lamps until the flames of the lamp can hold their own and don't need help to stay lit. You know how it is - when you first light a candle using another flame, the candle's new flame is a little weak and it sort of sputters before it really gains strength and can exist on its own, unaided. Once that happens, the flame is truly strong enough to give light to its surroundings.

The Sichot Tzaddikim takes this idea further and points out that there exists within every Jew a bit of the light of G-d (in colloquial terms, the "pintele Yid"). Every Jewish person has a spark of Jewish feeling within them that can never be extinguished. This is the unique connection of all Jewish people to G-d that every single Jewish individual, no matter what his or her circumstances in life are, has within them. Sometimes this spark burns more strongly and sometimes it is more dormant. Sometimes you feel this connection to G-d clearly, and sometimes the connection needs a little help to bring it out. You just have to take that little spark and warm it up a bit to help it reach the status of a full-fledged flame, and then it will be lit from within, on its own, and is able to illuminate everything surrounding it. You just need that little bit of inspiration and feeling to touch the spark within, and the spark absorbs that feeling and gathers strength, and before you know it, is burning of its own accord.

We are all capable, no matter what our level of religiosity or observance, to both touch and be touched; both our own inner connection to G-d and the connection of others. The key is to really take the moments of inspiration in Judaism, when our G-dly spark within senses the truth and purity of what we're experiencing, and to internalize those moments so that the feeling that accompanies them is not lost. Then the light of those moments lasts, and burns continuously, and gives strength to all that follows it.

Have a great, spiritual and uplifting Shabbat!

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