And the living shall take to heart – Ecclesiastics 7:2
Many, many lessons can be gleaned from this week’s Torah chapter.
I learned three of them from my father.
The Menorah plays a prominent role in the Bible and in tradition. This week’s chapter begins with the statement to Aaron “raise the flames.”
Why so much focus on the menorah, more than any other Temple vessel? Because the kindled flames of the menorah encapsulate the very purpose of our lives: To illuminate our surroundings. Each of us must be a “walking menorah,” illuminating and warming everyone and everything we meet.
We live in a dark and cold world. Many of us are confused; others feel alone. It is hard to find our way in a material world that conceals the path of truth. Our souls wander the earth in search of our destiny, in search of some peace. The menorah teaches us that every single encounter allows us the opportunity to bring in some light and warmth to others and to ourselves.
How many people make you feel uplifted after a conversation? How many bring you down? How many of your friends bring a smile to your face? How many a scorn?
Yes, we always have two choices: Either to illuminate others or to add to their misery. There is no third option. As the wise say, “If you are not busy being born, you are busy dying.” If you are not party of the cure, you are part of the problem. If you are not bringing light into this world you are contributing to its darkness.
As the Talmud tells us, “every generation that does not rebuild the Temple is considered as if it destroyed it.” Strong words. Because the status quo of a shrouded life is not healthy.
And therein lies our power: We have the ability to shine; to light up the darkest crevices.
Every interaction offers us the choice.
I have seen a man who has brought light to many people in the most discreet of ways. So discreet, that I wonder whether he himself was aware of it.
The flames must rise on their own. It’s not enough to kindle a flame, but you have to ensure that the flame has the power to burn on its own.
Commanding autocrats may wield great power. But their control lasts only as long as their presence does. If you want to see real power look at the teacher that never makes commands or demands, but in his subtle way suggests. He teaches by inspiration and osmosis, rather than by fear and intimidation. He teaches you to rise on your own – to shine with your own brilliance, not just as an extension of his. And his influence lasts forever, because it’s not about his presence, but about his power to perpetuate.
I don’t recall my father ever ordering me to do anything. Some saw that as detachment, lack of direct involvement in a child’s education. Strange, but his positive influence on me far outshines that of any educator or disciplinarian I ever had.
It’s never too late. Even when you may come late or miss your appointment, you always have a second chance.
Those people who could not bring the Passover offering came demanding of Moses “why are we deprived.” Their persistence and outcry elicited a new mitzvah, that even those that “were distant or impure” during Passover, have now a second opportunity to bring the offering.
Persistence is a rare virtue, especially in a complacent world. You must have a powerful engine within to maintain momentum even when others are discouraging you from forging ahead. If you want to change the world you cannot afford to hear all the reasons why something can’t work.
And persistence prevails.
These are some fleeting thoughts of a resolute soul in a shaken body. I ask myself, and perhaps every one of us can ask ourselves:
How many people have I illuminated and warmed today?
How many have I inspired to rise on their own?
And finally, have I resigned myself because it sometimes seems too difficult?
Never, never give up. Everything is possible, if you truly believe in it.