Our Parsha opens with two verses which looking closely seem out of place, Hashem telling Moshe, without using his name – and you should command Bnei Yisrael to take pure olive oil and Aaron and his sons the priests should light a continuous light (Ner Tamid) and this should be an eternal decree. Last week’s Parsha dealt with the design and construction of the tabernacle and after these two verses this week’s deals with the garments worn by the priests in their work. These two verses should be next to the discussion of the menorah later on in Shemot or Bamidbar. However if we think of the first thing that Hashem created it was light and so he is telling us to follow suit and before dealing with the practical work in the Tabernacle to light up the way.
The Midrash comes and gives a beautiful idea. Bnei Yisrael come before Hashem and say “you have all the troubles of the world on your shoulders and you ask us to honour you. You light up the whole world yet you ask us to keep a permanent flame alight.” R Meir says that Hashem answers “the light that Aaron lights is very special for me, I do not need the light, but it shows me that you always honour me and also help others not be in darkness.”
This pure olive oil flame burned in the seven arm menorah in the Tabernacle and later on in the Temple. However Rashi explains that the significance of continuous light was that it lit all through the night and not in the daytime. The Ramban is of the opinion that the outermost western light burned through the night and through the day. We commemorate the light by keeping a Ner Tamid always alight in shool.
Rav S R Hirsch considers these sentences are really talking about learning the Torah which has been our light throughout the generations and he notes the Hebrew “Leha’alot Ner Tamid,” – to raise the flame. The Talmud in Shabbat 21a explains that the mitzvah is to light the flame till the flame rises on it’s own. The job of a good teacher is to teach Torah in such a way that he becomes superfluous and the student is able to learn and investigate on their own.
Talking of light and sound, interestingly there are regulations in most countries about making noise particularly in the night hours, and we are even having a battle in Israel over the early call to prayer for the Muslims from a megaphone being a disturbance. My brother David in England ia quite an expert Astronomer and wishes to have as clear a view as possible of the sky at night, which is pretty difficult as he lives in London. In addition his neighbor after having had a robbery has put up security lights which stay alight all night so restricting his stargazing even more and there are no regulations regarding light only sound. Nevertheless he has still managed to write an important book for those who wish to study the night sky “Stargazing through Binoculars” showing how you can see the wonders without having an expensive telescope.
Wishing all, a happy and fun Purim where the Megila also tells us “The Jews has light and rejoicing” also putting the light first. Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach.