18 May 2016 A Continual Lamp: Always and Consistent
Towards the end of this week’s parsha, Parshas Emor, the Torah tells of the lighting of the Menorah in the Sanctuary: צַו אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית–לַמָּאוֹר: לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד – And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Command the Children of Israel that they take to you clear olive oil, crushed, for illumination, to light a ner tamid, a lamp continually (Lev.24:1-2).
What does ner tamid mean?
Rashi (to Lev.24:2) teaches: תָּמִיד. מִלַּיְלָה לְלַיְלָה, כְּמוֹ עוֹלַת תָּמִיד, שֶׁאֵינָהּ אֶלָּא מִיּוֹם לְיוֹם – Tamid, Continually: From night to night, (i.e.: the Menorah must be kindled every night). Tamid, as in an olah-tamid, a continual offering, which is offered only from day to day.
Furthermore, Rashi (to Lev.24:3) teaches that the kohen shall arrange the Menorah with enough oil (a measurement of half a log) for each lamp, to last through the longest nights of the winter season, and this measurement of oil was used for every night of the year.
Tamid – light the Menorah every evening, with enough oil for it to burn through the night.
Tamid is an interesting word, for we usually understand it to mean always, as in שויתי ה׳ לנגדי תמיד – I place Hashem before me always (Ps.16:8).
And yet, in regard to the lighting of the Menorah, and the offering of the olah tamid, tamid cannot mean always; for the lamps do not burn always, at every moment, but rather, they are lit, and burn, only through each night.
Therefore, we can say that tamid has a dual meaning, and the two meanings complement each other. Tamid means (I) always and (II) consistent.
The lamps of the Menorah in the Sanctuary must be consistently lit, each and every night – through the long winter nights and through the shorter summer nights.
And from here we can derive an important lesson regarding our avodas Hashem: While it is most certainly true that we must place Hashem before us always, we must also keep Hashem before us consistently. In avodas Hashem, there is no room for feebleness, spiritlessness and indecisiveness. Serving Hashem cannot be one day on and one day off.
We must serve Him, and keep Hashem and His Torah and mitzvos, before us always and consistently.
R’ Boruch Perton relates that, “When I was Mechina (in Yeshivas Ner Yisrael Baltimore), I had earned the rank of Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts. I wanted an extra ‘out Shabos’ to attend the special celebration being held in my honor. I asked Rebbi (R’ Yosef Tendler z’l), who had never heard of an Eagle Scout, for permission to go.
“I explained what an Eagle Scout was, and he said, ‘You can go on one condition. I will write a dvar Torah that you will say at the event.’ And he did. It was about priorities and values, and stressed that the most important thing in this world is not being an Eagle Scout, but being a ben Torah.
“I went, and I gave the dvar Torah. Without exaggeration, every time I spent Shabos with him for the next thirty years, he reminded me of that dvar Torah. In November 2010, I was spending a Shabos with Rebbi when his brother, R’ Shalom, was there. Once again, Rebbi reminded me of that dvar Torah, saying it over to his brother at the Shabos table.” (I am Your Servant, Artscroll, p.246).
Light a ner tamid – a continual lamp; place Hashem before you tamid. In our avodas Hashem – our service of G-d, which includes the realms of bein adam l’chavairo, bein adam la’atzmo, and bein adam la’Makom (interaction between man and fellow man; interactions, so to speak, within man himself; and interactions between man and G-d, respectively), we must be always ready to serve, and we must do so consistently, never wavering in our commitment to Torah and mitzvos.
And when we are always and consistent, we will have lit our own metaphoric lamps, which will burn through long dark nights, shining brightly as a testimony to our commitment to Hashem, Who is before us always.
,ברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום
My thanks to my brother, R’ Dov Fried, for teaching me the dual, and complementary, meanings of tamid.