A couple of weeks ago my Visual Torah sketchnote talked about how cultic rules were adapted in the Diaspora. This week’s Torah portion, parsha T’tzaveh, contains another great example.
The Cultic Ner Tamid
T’tzaveh talks of commandment to create a lamp that is continuously light using beaten olive oil. This lamp was called the ner tamid, the “eternal light” and was to reside at the front of the desert Tabernacle. Once out of the desert the new tamid became part of the structure of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Rabbinic Ner Tamid
Once the Temple was destroyed, people kept their ability to pray as a community by creating synagogues. To tie the synagogue back to the Temple, a ner tamid was hung from the ceiling directly above the ark containing the Torah scrolls. Since the ark is always on the wall that faces Jerusalem, the ner tamid, ark and the Torah scrolls are geographically the location closest to the site of the Temple in Jerusalem.
A modern interpretation of the concept of the “eternal light” is that is is a representation of the light within each of us.
I believe in the sun even when it is not shining
This was inscribed on the wall of a cellar in Cologne, Germany where Jews hid from sure death during World War II. Faith, even when troubled by doubt; light even when enveloped by darkness are reasons that the Jewish people have survived so many genocide attempts by various tyrants over the millennia.
The ner tamid in T’tzaveh is a challenge to us to kindle and cherish the eternal light in our own hearts.