Tending the Flame for Tomorrow

Image Credit: Noam Chen/JFNA

The Torah is filled with vivid imagery, inspiring stories and so many layers of meaning ­ providing ample opportunities for each of us to find what is most relevant and significant. It is a gift that provides direction, purpose, and the moral and ethical guideposts we rely on in our personal and professional lives.

This week's portion, Behaalotecha, begins with the instruction for Aaron to light the Menorah in the Mishkan, the tabernacle. The Menorah has seven branches made out of one lump of gold in accordance with a divine image received by Moses. Moses was directed to speak to Aaron and say to him, "when you cause the lights on the menorah to ascend...."

There have been many interpretations of this passage and of the significance of causing the light to ascend. Light represents a core image in our religion: the Ner Tamid, the eternal light that must always be lit above the ark; the candles that herald in Shabbat and the holidays; the menorah we light on Hanukah; and the candle we light in memory of loved ones who have passed.

Light does not occur magically. It requires fuel, a wick, someone to light the wick, and a vessel to hold the illumination.

How does this relate to us? We participate in the Jewish community because we believe that what we do collectively enables all of us -­ and those whose lives we touch -­ to ascend to new and greater personal heights. Those "heights" may come in many different forms: spiritual growth, the satisfaction of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), or the personal gratification of knowing you're part of something bigger that positively impacts the lives of those less fortunate. For many of us, it's a feeling of connection that transcends our sense of self and binds us to our heritage, our global Jewish community, and the values we hold dear.

As a Jewish community, we are charged with lighting a wick that produces a flame representing the soul of our Jewish people. Together, we ascend to a higher degree of sensitivity, compassion, and responsibility for our fellow human beings.

The wick needs fuel to sustain the flame -­ which is why we are all actively engaged in raising the resources necessary to keep our community vibrant. The golden Menorah represents our community; it consists of multiple branches, all connected and formed from something very precious.

Behaalotecha also speaks about the division of labor required to keep the Menorah lit. We have a sacred duty to make sure that not only are there enough people available to keep the flame lit today, but also that the young are prepared and willing to continue this sacred duty into perpetuity.

Next week marks my second anniversary at the Federation. It's clear to me that we are engaged in divinely inspired work that allows each of us to find the internal flame that carries us to greater levels of personal satisfaction, commitment, and connection.

May we always have enough fuel -­ and enough engaged and committed people -­ to keep the flame of our precious Menorah lit for generations to come.

Shabbat Shalom.


Howard Sovronsky
President & CEO


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