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Spreading the Light

בהעלותך את הנרות

* Translated by Janine Muller Sherr

Parashat Beha’alotcha opens with a verse that brings light into the world:

“Speak to Aaron and you shall say to him: When you kindle the lamps, toward the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps cast light.”

Aaron is commanded to light the lamps in the Menorah. But his job entails not only a physical lighting but also a spiritual mission: to illuminate the minds and hearts of the people. Aaron the Kohen was considered the people’s educator par excellence, the inspiring spiritual leader whose task was to spread the light. Our sages explain that each of us is called upon to serve as a “Kohen/Priest,” a leader in our own communities and to enlighten his community with holiness and enthusiasm to those near us.

This week I was in the yishuv of Psagot, visiting the Weiss family who are sitting shiva for their father, Master Sgt. (Res.) Elon Weiss, who fell in battle in Gaza. His wife Neta spoke about her husband’s life mission to educate and spread light to others. He took a course to become a tour guide so that he could share his passion for the Land of Israel; he was a high school teacher in Ma’ale Adumim who was very devoted to his students; he was studying for a Master’s degree and wanted to continue on to a PhD so he could research a topic close to his heart. He was dedicated to studying Daf Yomi (Daily Daf of Gemara), because he believed that an educator needs to educate himself too—his daily Torah study was of utmost importance to him. And since the beginning of the war, he was involved in a new mission: to teach the children and teenagers living in the communities close to the Gaza Strip. He told Neta that the young people there were likely suffering from PTSD and needed encouragement and support in order to cope; he was determined to strengthen them physically as well as spiritually. And to preserve Elon Weiss’s legacy, we are called upon to carry on his holy mission.

Shabbat Shalom.


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