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Sukkat Shalom B'nei Noach





Symbolism of Light in Jewish Tradition

In the beginning, at the creation of the world, G-d spoke: “Let there be light,” and there was light. This light, born from His divine command, was not the ordinary light we know from the sun, the moon, and the stars. It was an original light, a light hidden behind the veil of the physical world but made visible by His will. This light, the eternal light of the Torah, was the precursor to the physical light that is a reflection of this eternal light of the Holy of Holies.

In a similar spirit, we see in the construction of the Tabernacle that G-d gives Moses instructions on how the Menorah should be lit long before the Menorah was actually in the Tabernacle. The Menorah, the seven-branched candlestick, stands as a symbol of the reflection of the Divine light that was in the Holy of Holies, where it was represented by the Ark (in which we can perceive the word Or) HaKadosh. The Holy Ark that contains the Ten Commandments.

The light of the Menorah was not necessary for G-d Himself because His Torah represents the eternal light, but the Menorah as a reflection of this Holy Light was intended to illuminate the sanctuary, which itself had no windows and therefore lay in darkness. Only when the Menorah gives its light is it possible to work in the sanctuary.

To make the Menorah give light, pure olive oil is needed. The pure olive oil symbolizes the Jewish soul. Just as olive oil can only be obtained by pressing and purifying the olives, so too does the Jewish soul undergo challenges and difficulties to become pure. Thus, the light of the Menorah symbolizes the light of the Jewish soul that illuminates the sanctuary, the world in which G-d desires to dwell, with the reflection of the Eternal Light, G-d’s Torah.

G-d and therefore His Torah are Eternal, the light of the Torah is eternal. Note that Exodus 27 speaks of the Menorah as an eternal light, even though the Temple is destroyed, and its treasures, including the Menorah, are hidden, that light, the Jewish soul, continues to shine in the world.

Learning Points

  1. Symbolism of Light: The text illustrates the profound symbolism of light within Jewish tradition, where the light of the Menorah not only provides physical illumination but also has a spiritual significance as a reflection of the divine light of the Torah and the pure Jewish soul.
  2. The Jewish Soul: The concept of an ‘eternal light’ in the context of the Menorah emphasizes the timeless nature of spiritual enlightenment and the ongoing presence of the Jewish soul, even in times of physical darkness or destruction.

By Angelique Sijbolts


Chizkuni on Exodus 27:20:1 and 2

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