Am I Only Dreaming, Or Is This Burning An Eternal Flame?: Tetzaveh 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Is the Ner Tamid (perpetually-lit lamp) an important synagogue symbol to you? What does it represent to you?

The establishment of a continuously-burning flame in a house of worship seems to mean different things to different people:

The Pitch: “Aaron and his sons shall set them up in the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain which is over [the Ark of] the Pact, [to burn] from evening to morning before the Lord. It shall be a due from the Israelites for all time, throughout the ages.” – Exodus 27:21

Swing #1: “Of all the commandments related to the Tabernacle, this is the one ritual that remained intact throughout the exile, and was easily moved from the context of the Temple into Diaspora experience. By reading women and their ritual role more fully into the life and development of the tradition, we can understand the Temple lamps as a ritual precursor for the lighting of Shabbat candles.” – Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow, “Tetzaveh: Finding Our Home in the Temple and the Temple in our Homes”, from The Women’s Torah Commentary, Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, ed.

Swing #2: “The Tabernacle is not conceived of as a temporary measure for a limited time, but one in which the permanent priesthood of Aaron serves throughout all their generation.” – Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary

Swing #3: “Our Rabbis estimated half a log of oil as sufficient for the nights of Tevet, which are long, and they ordained a similar quantity for every night of the year, and if any were left over on the shorter nights it did not matter (Menachot 89a).” – Rashi

Late-Inning Questions: Which explanation(s) of the Ner Tamid do you find most compelling? Is its presence in a synagogue reassuring to you in any way? What aspects of your spiritual life can you always count on?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: This year’s Purim celebration will have a truly international flavor. Join us for Purim Around the World on Monday, March 9th, starting with food from various countries at 6PM, then our Megillah reading featuring customs from different communities starting at 7PM. And don’t forget to bring items for the Kosher Food Pantry — you’ll get a raffle ticket for every item you bring!

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of things or people we can always count on, do you think that Cal Ripken’s streak of playing 2,632 consecutive games is the most impressive baseball records? If not, what is?

Shabbat Shalom!