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The Energies of Parashat Tetzaveh: the Eternal Light

The first two verses of this week's portion (Exodus 27:20-21) stick out like the proverbial sore thumb and call out to us for attention, in several ways.

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.

  • They are actually the last two verses of the prior chapter, and have been detached from there and placed as the beginning of this week's portion. Also, this portion is about other things, with very long and detailed descriptions about garments, sacrifices, and the alter - why are two brief (and seemingly unrelated) references to the Eternal Light put at the beginning of the portion?

  • It is the "ner tamid" the Eternal Light but it only burns from evening to morning and then is re-lit each evening - isn't an eternal light lit and then stays lit? Isn't it an internal contradiction to continuously re-light an Eternal Light, doesn't that make it non-Eternal?

  • Verse 20 specifies "pure" olive oil - what is meant by "pure", and what is the difference between pure and impure?

The Resonating~Torah is telling us very much in these two short, relatively simple verses. Let's go through each of the above points:


  • They are actually the last two verses of the prior chapter, and have been detached from there and placed as the beginning of this week's portion. Also, this portion is about other things, with very long and detailed descriptions about garments, sacrifices, and the alter - why are two brief (and seemingly unrelated) references to the Eternal Light put at the beginning of the portion? It feels like the message is clear - the Resonating~Torah is telling us that everything starts with energies, everything is about energies. Just like in last week's portion the energies that started with the heart are what led to the Mishkan, similarly here we can read about very technical and detailed tasks but in order to understand it we need to start with and keep energies in mind and in heart as we are proceeding. These two verses are like a neon light flashing in preparation of reading the rest of the parshah: Keep the energies of the Mishkan, the energies of the Resonating~Torah, the energies of the world in mind as you are reading this parshah, to fill in the meaning of all the details you are about to go into!

  • It is the "ner tamid" the Eternal Light but it only burns from evening to morning and then is re-lit each evening - isn't an eternal light lit and then stays lit? Isn't it an internal contradiction to continuously re-light an Eternal Light, doesn't that make it non-Eternal? Rashi helps us in our electric-appliance era to understand this and the really important meaning of it. The Eternal Light is not lit once and then lasts forever of itself and by itself, but rather it is the Eternal Light because it has a consistent and eternal lighting process - light it twice a day, forever. This reference to energies includes the understanding that it is in the nature of energies, and thus of the world, to dissipate, and thus to maintain energies we need to continually put in energies. The Resonating~Torah is telling us not to think in terms of one-off efforts, but rather like the most holy of lights that is at the front and center of the Mishkan, anything that is important to us continually needs attention to energies and input of energies. The energies of caring for ourselves, the energies of relating to our family / friends / community, the energies of interacting with the world around us - these all require ongoing attention and "re-lighting" according to the situation in order to maintain the level of fullness / holiness that is best for us and for the world.

  • Verse 20 specifies "pure" olive oil - what is meant by "pure", and what is the difference between pure and impure? Rashi tells us this means the oil that comes from pressing the olive, that is it is the natural authentic oil that comes naturally from the olive as distinguished from the oil that comes from grinding the olives (Amurca in English). We learn from this that a person or community that is operating in its authentic energies is purer and more appropriate for activities than one operating in forced energies that are coming from outside itself. This distinction in the Eternal Light between pure and impure olive oil, between authentic energies and forced energies, is really important for all of us, all of the time.


These two brief verses at the beginning of Parashat Tetzaveh, seemingly isolated and not necessarily connected to the remainder of the portion, are telling us beautifully what we can do to be an Eternal Light in the energies we bring to ourselves, to those around us, and to the entire world!

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