In Parshat B’ha’alot’cha, we read, “Now this is how the lampstand was made: it was hammered work of gold, hammered from base to petal. According to the pattern that G-d had shown Moses, so was the lampstand made.” The Torah is succinct, and repetitions indicate importance. The emphasis in the sentence is not on the gold, as one might expect (after all, gold is valuable and hard to attain), but rather on the making and the work involved in creating the lamp. The words that repeat in the sentence are the verb “to make,” and the adjective “hammered.”
If we view the lampstand as a symbol of the Jewish people, we can understand that we may be made of gold, but it is in the making that we become holy, not in what we are made of. Gold sitting in darkness is no different than wood. It only gains its beauty when light is kindled and reflects on it. Furthermore, the light of multiple lamps can reflect on the gold of each other increasing the total reflected light. This too is how our community works – we make one another shine brighter.
The Torah further teaches, “When you mount the lamps, let the seven lamps give light at the front of the lampstand.” From this we can understand two things. One is that we continually mount the lamps – we always have the opportunity to bring light into the world. We also learn that light reflected only at one another or only at G-d is not the point, but rather that we must bring our light forward into the world and share it with others.
The lampstand is hammered – made from one piece, not soldered, and crafted with effort and artisanship. The seven branched menorah begins as a solid piece at its base. The individual components are hammered out of that single piece. So too it is with our Jewish community. We are all different and experience our Judaism in unique ways, but at the base, we are all one whose fate is tied together.
On this Shabbat, may you find yourself renewed by the lights of community shining beside you, may you reflect that light outward to make the world a better place, and may you be blessed and bless others with peace.
Cantor Sally L. Neff