In Memory of Uri Orbach z”l and Adele Bitton z”l
Light is a central theme in Judaism.
In Parshat Trumah we read about the construction of the Menorah and in Parshat Titzaveh we are commanded to light a ner tamid, an eternal flame.
Although the Beit HaMikdash no longer stands, we still light an eternal flame in every synagogue.
Every Shabbat and holiday is brought in by the lighting of candles and every holiday has a connection to light.
During the Hebrew month of Elul and through the High Holidays, Sukkot and Simchat Torah, we recite Psalm 27, L’David HaShem Ori V’Yishi, God is my light and my salvation. We recite this psalm with the hope that on Rosh HaShana God will help us see the light and repent.
Another name for Chanuka is Chag HaUrim, the festival of lights, which commemorates the Jewish people winning the war against the Syrian Greeks, rededicating the Beit HaMikdash and lighting the Menorah. We light our own personal chanukiot to remember the victory.
On Purim we read in Megilat Esther 8:16, “LaYehudim hayta ora vesimcha visason viykar”, “The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor”.
In what way did they have light?
Amos Chacham, the author of Daat Mikra’s commentary on Megilat Esther explains that the word “ora” could be a figurative light. The troubles are compared to darkness and the salvation is the transformation from darkness to light. “Ora” can also be a literal light. When people are happy and rejoice they turn on the lights both inside and outside of their homes.
We recite that same verse from the megila (The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor) each week while holding a multi-wicked candle as part of the Havdala service and we add the words “ken tihye lanu”, “so may it be for us”.
At the Pesach seder, we commemorate the journey of B’nai Yisrael from the darkness of slavery to the light of redemption.
On Shavuot, we are reminded of the Revelation at Sinai. In Shmot 19:18 we read: “All of Mount Sinai was smoking because God descended upon it in the fire. The smoke ascended like the smoke of the furnace and the entire mountain shuddered exceedingly.”
In Mishlei (Proverbs) the Torah is compared to light and the mitzvot are compared to a candle. Mishlei 6:23 states: “Ki ner mitzvah v’Torah or”, “For the commandment is a lamp and the Torah a light”.
Shmot Rabah 36:3 asks the question: What is the meaning of the verse: “For the commandment is a lamp and the Torah a light”? Whoever performs a commandment has kindled a lamp before God and revives their soul as it says in Mishlei 20:27, “Ner Hashem Nishmat adam”, “The soul of man is the lamp of God”.
When we light a yahrzeit candle, a ner neshama, literally a candle of the soul we are showing that the souls of the departed live on.
This week, Israel lost two very special people, Member of Kneset Uri Orbach who passed away from a serious illness at age 54 and Adele Bitton, a four year old who was hurt in a rock throwing terrorist attack in 2013 and never recovered. The entire nation was asked to pray on their behalf and although many of us did not know them personally we were affected by their untimely deaths. As their shiva candles flicker we must take the time to learn about and appreciate the contributions that they made during their short lives and help their legacies live on.