The Eternal Source of Light Sometimes Seems Hidden

This Dvar Torah was adapted from one given by attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, a member of The Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Planning and Distribution Committee, at their most recent meeting. 

Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

This week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, means “You shall command” and refers to the many detailed instructions given to the children of Israel by G!D.


It details instructions given to the children of Israel, including how to build the Mishkan / Tabernacle, where to put the incense before the ark, what clothing the priests must wear, and the need to bring pure olive oil for the Ner Tamid, a constantly burning light above the sanctuary.


I sometimes struggle with the idea of being “commanded” and some of the seemingly archaic aspects of Biblical Judaism, like the Temple service and animal sacrifices.


However, a deeper dive into the parasha reveals something extraordinary and it is — you might even say — a revelation about our Peoplehood. As always, there are lessons for us as leaders in this resilient community of ours.


We all need reminders to guide us on our path and Parashat Tetzaveh contains these. For me, a highlight of this portion is the concept of the Ner Tamid, the eternal light.


The Ner Tamid represents the pillar of fire that guided the Jewish people through the desert.


Especially given the tragedy and trauma facing our siblings in Israel, on college campuses and beyond, as well as the attacks LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and non-binary folks endure as targets of oppressive laws here in Florida and nationwide, it can be hard to see the light right now.


Yet, while we sometimes cannot see the light, we have faith the light is there. We know we are not alone.


The Ner Tamid represents hope and inspiration and reminds us of the mitzvot- our ethical values and ritual obligations— all of which bring light into a world that is in desperate need of it.


Our work in the Jewish community through CAJE- the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation brings hope and light to our people here in Miami, in Israel and in communities around the world.


Today, we don’t have to build an edifice to feel G!D’s presence among us. When we live as Jews and act upon our Jewish values and teachings, lifting up our voices for justice, we bring G!D’s presence into our lives and into this world in a very visible way.


As leaders, we may mentor, train and teach, but we also lead by our actions. We lead not only by what we say, but also by what we do-- and how we vote.


May we continue to light the way and to trust in the Ner Tamid, that Eternal Source of Light, even when we can’t always see that light ourselves.


May our hostages be freed safely and soon and may Israel know a lasting and stable peace.

Shabbat Shalom