Perashat Tessaveh 5779
Perashat Tessaveh 5779Friday, February 15, 2019
Opportunity is dead.
At least that's what NASA is telling us. 15 years ago on January 25, 2004, a little rover landed on Mars. It was called Opportunity. The rover was built for a 90-day mission to explore that reddish dot in our night sky for signs of life or habitability.
Somehow that 90-day mission would stretch into 15 years. The pictures we would receive periodically fired up our imaginations and let us think of the vast possibilities this galaxy could afford us. It lasted so long because it was powered by solar energy, and even in the few sandstorms it experienced on Mars' surface, the wind would blow across the deserted expanse uncovering its sand-covered solar panels, exposing them again to the warmth and energy of the sun. Time after time, even if Opportunity stopped, out of power and freezing, the light would shine once again, and the little rover that could would roll on to its next opportunity. It was the power of the light that allowed it to exceed its expected life span by 55 times! (I guess on Mars they aren't fazed by Hamsa!)
That little rover carried with it a beautiful opportunity for us to learn a powerful life lesson.
Our Parasha opens with the commandment to Aharon HaKohen to light the Menora in the Mishkan.
The Gemara points out, "'that they take for you' Rabbi Shmuel bar Nahmani says: God tells the Jewish people that the oil should be taken "for you" to indicate that it is for their benefit and not for My benefit, as I do not need its light." [Menahot 86b]
In fact, the windows of the Temple were designed to let that maximum light shine OUT from the Temple, not to let the maximum light shine IN. The Talmud there quotes the same line, "I do not need its light."
What then is the purpose of lighting the Menora in the Temple if its light is not for God? The answer is that its light shines for US. The Menora's light represents the Light of the Torah. Like the Opportunity rover, we walk, talk, live, survive and bounce back by the power of its Light and by the Light of its missvot. Its Light powers and guides our thoughts and actions, our emotions and feelings, taking us further than we, or anyone else ever thought possible. That is why the Torah specifies that the Menora should be,
It should not be hidden in the Holy of Holies behind the Parochet curtain, illuminating only the inner sanctum of the Mishkan, but out in the open, shining from within the Temple to illuminate the outside world.
Here is the catch: the Opportunity is now dead, after 15 unexpected years, not because there isn't enough Light, but because its solar panels are covered by too much sand. The light simply cannot get through. It is powerless because it is literally power-less. We are the same. The Torah's Light is unending, undiminished by time or space, and yet we are witnessing so many lost opportunities. It is not because there isn't enough LIGHT. It is because there is a little bit of sand of Earth, of physicality, of wealth, of greed or of comfort blocking our receivers. We slowly lose our energy and our way, until we too are stuck, shifting from "the People that could", to "the People that could have".
In Lecha Dodi we are told, "הִתְנַעֲרִי מֵעָפָר קוּמִי - Shake it off! Get up from the dust!". When we feel lethargic, robbed of purpose or mission we must ask ourselves, what is blocking my receivers? The Light is there. Why can't I experience the Light? What is getting in the way? Am I studying Torah? Can I go to another class, or open a book? What am I prioritizing over its wisdom and power giving Light? We are alike, us and the Opportunity. Unlike an abandoned helpless rover in deep space that can not shake off its dust, we can and must!
Rabbi Shlomo Farhi
May 26 2019
Iyar 21 5779