Do You See Lamps?

Friday, 28 May, 2021 - 12:16 pm

Malkie and I had the pleasure of getting a sneak preview tour of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience (MSJE) ahead of their soft opening this week. Curator Anna Tucker showed us around; and we had the honor of chatting with Board Chair Jay Tanenbaum and director Kenneth Hoffman. We were very impressed with the exhibits and the attention to detail at every level of the museum. We are certain that MSJE will become an important destination for visitors and locals alike, as they trek through downtown New Orleans. We wish them Mazal tov for the opening and much success moving forward.

In 1907 the fifth Chabad Rebbe was asked, “What is a Chasid?” He replied, “A Chasid is a lamplighter.”

In the olden days, the lamplighter walked the streets carrying a flame at the end of a pole, going from lamp to lamp to set them alight. So the Rebbe was saying that is Chasid is one who seeks to kindle the lights of others.

After some back and forth the man declared to the Rebbe, “But Rebbe, I do not see the lamps!” To which the Rebbe replied, “That is because you are not a lamplighter.”

This is reflected in an exchange between G-d and Aaron the High Priest in this week’s Parshah. On the opening verse, “When you light the lamps (of the Menorah),” Rashi comments, “When Aaron saw the dedication [offerings] of the tribal princes, he felt distressed over not joining them in this dedication... So G-d said to him, “By your life, yours is greater than theirs, for you will light and prepare the lamps.”

The Rebbe explains that when G-d says “by your life” He is providing the “recipe” for success as a lamplighter. Of course this is a reference to the literal Menorah that stood in the Sanctuary. But the Menorah also alludes to the “Candle of G-d which is the soul of man.” How do we successfully become lamplighters, helping our fellow Jews to kindle their lamps-souls? “By your life” tells us that you must be prepared to invest your life and much effort into this endeavor. When you turn this into a life’s endeavor, you will begin to see your fellow Jew as a lamp – a candle of G-d.

Each of us can be a mini-High Priest. We must first work to earn the role of a lamplighter, we will then the lamps and set ourselves to the task of illuminating the world with much light.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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