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Ner Tamid

The Burden of Leadership: Carrying the People with You at All Times

According to modern academic scholarship of the Bible – the critical approach embraced by progressive Judaism in its centers of higher learning – the Torah is made up of separate literary strands, written in different times and places, and holding different ideologies about ancient Jewish life. In this week’s parashahT’tzaveh, we see the P-strand, which stands for Priestly code and was likely composed by the priests’ heirs to Temple authority during the Babylonian exile after the defeat of the Judean kingdom in 586 B.C.E. Understood this way, we, as the biblical readers of today, might appreciate P’s representation of priest and Temple as a mythic argument for how the exiles can see through and beyond the upheaval and uprooting of their time.

D'var Torah By: 
How a Pleasing Odor Can Enrich Both Our Hearts and God’s
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Dan Ross

On December 17, 2018, my wife Rabbi Jade Ross and I celebrated our first anniversary. As a gift of paper is the traditional present for this occasion, I purchased for us a small volume entitled Our Q&A A Day, a shared journal that invites us each to compose a response to 365 daily questions over the course of the next three years. The most curious question has been, "What does your kitchen smell like?" As we read Parashat T'tzaveh, I'm reminded of this question as we discuss the "pleasing odor" of sacrifices that were offered to God.

High Moral Standards for Our Leaders, and Ourselves

We hold our leaders in government, sports, entertainment, and religion to high standards both in performing their duties and in exhibiting good behavior. But is it right for us to scrutinize their behavior outside their realms of responsibility? Parashat T’tzaveh says, “yes.”

D'var Torah By: 
You Look Marvelous!
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Joe Eiduson

Parashat T'tzaveh discusses the clothing of the priests. While we today may have difficulty imagining the exact form and function of each of the garments worn by Aaron, as Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz comments in The Penateuch and Haftorahs: “These garments reminded the High Priest that even more than the layman, he must make the ideal of holiness the constant guide of his life” (London: Soncino Press, 1996, p. 339).

Each of Us Can Kindle the Light Within

We find the initial reference to the ner tamid in this week’s Torah portion, Parashat T’tzavehThe parashah opens with the instructions for creating and maintaining the ner tamid. “You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly. Aaron and his sons shall set them up in the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain which is over [the Ark of the Pact], [to burn] from evening to morning before the Eternal. It shall be a due from the Israelites for all time, throughout the ages” (Exodus 27:20-21).

D'var Torah By: 
Bells and Pomegranates: Our Approach to Godly Conversations
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Katie Bauman

T’tzaveh contains a detailed description of the clothing to be donned by the first priests as they enter God’s presence. One such detail is “On [the robe’s] hem make pomegranates … all around the hem, with bells of gold between them all around.” (Exodus 28:33). We might imagine the jingling of those bells as an announcement of the priest’s intention to come into God’s royal presence.

The Light that Brings Us Closer to God

This week's Torah portion, Parashat T'tzaveh, continues the detailed instructions for the building and decoration of the Tabernacle, our ancestors' portable sanctuary during the years of wandering in the desert. Most of the details discussed in T'tzaveh, like bejeweled vestments to be worn by the priests, are exotically unfamiliar to Jews today. But the parashah opens with a description that seems much more familiar to anyone who has spent time inside a synagogue sanctuary. "You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly," God tells Moses (Exodus 27:20). But the last two words — ner tamid — can also be translated as "eternal light."

D'var Torah By: 
Lifting the Light to Invite God In
Davar Acher By: 
Andrew L. Rosenkranz

Light serves as such an important element of our religious practice. Many adults brought up in the Jewish faith have special memories of lighting the Shabbat candles every Friday night. The radiance of the flame emits a distinctive warmth that brings us closer to one another and reminds us that the week is over.

A kindled flame is mysterious. Perhaps the reason we light candles before each holiday is to remind us that we are welcoming a grander sense of God's Presence into our lives at that particular moment, and the ner tamid, "eternal light," serves as a constant reminder of that presence. A single flame awakens many senses within us. We can feel its warmth. We can see its glow. We can even hear the strike of the match and the sizzle of the wick.

Bringing Light to Torah

T'tzaveh was my bat mitzvah portion . . . 50 years ago. It's hard to believe that it's been that long, and that I'm old enough to say things like that.

D'var Torah By: 
Turn It and Turn It Again
Davar Acher By: 
Esther L. Lederman

In discussing this week's parashah, Rabbi Weinberg Dreyfus highlights one of the central symbols of our tradition—the ner tamid—the eternal light.

Is this Burning an Eternal Flame?

Have you ever gone through your iTunes collection and done a search for the word, "light?" Give it a try-I'll wait.

D'var Torah By: 
Tending the Flame as a Community
Davar Acher By: 
Loren Filson Lapidus

The ner tamid, eternal light, is a symbol of the Divine Presence. It is also a symbol of the community, as it is a communal responsibility to keep the light going.

Hide and Seek

In discussions with pre-b'nei mitzvah students and parents every year, I ask how they would feel about someone attending services in ripped jeans.

D'var Torah By: 
Bringing the Glory of God into the World
Davar Acher By: 
Denise L. Eger

The priests' clothes--especially those worn by the High Priest Aaron--were more than just the special uniforms donned during the sacred service. These were holy instruments of God.


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