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   by Jacob Solomon

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"You shall make seven lamps for the Menorah. You shall light up its lamps, and illuminate opposite its face" (25:37).

Rashi explains that the lights on both sides of the Menorah turned inwards "illuminating opposite its face" in directing their most intense radiation on its central stem.

Sforno develops this theme by focusing on the symbolism of the three branches on each side of the Menorah that illuminate that central shaft. Those on the right symbolize the theory, Torah learning. Those on the left represent the "active part", worldly activities conducted in line with Torah principles. Sforno also suggests that the branches on the right represent people learning Torah, and those on the left signify those who make it possible by materially supporting Torah. According to both explanations, when unified they continue to bring to life the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, generation after generation. In support, he emphasizes the Menorah's having had to be hammered out of a single block of gold symbolizes the need for unity amongst those who study Torah and those who support and live according to the Torah (Sforno to 25:37, and to Numbers 8:2).

Hirsch develops the idea further, seeing the form of the Menorah as symbolic of the relationship between the Torah and worldly wisdom. He compares the central shaft of the Menorah - the point of origin of all six branches - with the Torah base of life. The six branches represent the idea that all science and activities have their starting point in the Creator, and all have their goal and culmination in service to the Creator. All worldly activities are thus to be rooted in Torah principles, and conducted according to Torah principles.

Additionally, it can be suggested that the central stem is unique, as it is that shaft that sinks down to base of the Menorah, and supports its weight. The other six lamps branch out from the central stem; three on the left and three on the right. And those six lamps "illuminate towards the face of the Menorah" - their light focuses on the central shaft of the Menorah, which bears the weight of the whole structure that gives light.

That symbolizes a style of leadership exemplified by Moses and Aaron, and also relevant to day. It is where the leader - the central stem - bears the weight of the people he or she leads, and at the same time inspires that society. For example a Rav with sincerity, dynamism, and excellent chemistry with the kehilla gives it a unique strength. He is seen as someone who can listen, counsel, support, inspire and can be turned to in times of real trouble. The true father figure, and the bearer and guardian of our sacred traditions who is also noseh ol - bears the burdens of the community though his empathy, insight, and counsel. He is the central shaft of the successful kehilla, without which it would not be the same. Like the Menorah shaft, it is his involvement that creates the opportunities for others to cast light. And like the Menorah shaft, those who benefit from him reflect back positively to him.

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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