Parashat Terumah

The Menorah: Let Your Light Shine

The menorah teaches that each of us has a unique gift to contribute to the world.

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Our Unique Strengths

Each of us has some special talent or gift that is our unique strength. No matter how special other people may seem, you are able to bring your unique perspective and insight and talents in a combination that no one else can reproduce. In the words of the Mishnah, "there is no one who doesn't have their hour, and nothing which does not have its place." Each one of us, in our own ways, can add something irreplaceable to the luxurious weave of humanity.

Every individual person, like each glistening thread, makes the cloth that much more shimmering and durable. No one can replace you. Perhaps that is also why the Menorah has so many lights. Each one of the seven lights shines in its own uniqueness. In fact, the only thing that can make a menorah treif (ritually impermissible) is if the lights are not all on the same level--precisely even--so that no two lights can be confused as one. So too, the Talmud instructs that no replicas of the Temple menorah can be made or displayed anymore. Perhaps this too is an assertion of the importance of each individual.

Just as the Temple Menorah cannot simply be replaced, so too no human being can simply be replaced. Instead, those seven burning flames testify to the shining light within each human being: "the human soul is the lamp of God." The light of God's love, justice, and concern can only illumine the world through the individual light that we shine through our deeds, our communities, and through our performance of mitzvot (commandments).

Like the Menorah of old, we can illumine the world.

Shine brightly.

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.