Nazarene Space

Getting to the Bottom of the Menorah

Every sentence of Torah contains seventy facets of meaning. In other words there are literally seventy different lessons or meanings that can be drawn from each verse. Every single word of Torah also contains additional gleanings and every concept raised by a facit or meaning has four levels of understanding. The Hebrew word for these four levels is “pardes” and is an acronym for the names of each level:

1. Pashat means “simple"
2. Remez means “hint”
3. Drash means “search”
4. Sod means “hidden”

The term “pardes” is where we get the word “paradise,” mentioned in Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12: 4 and Revelation 2:7 and also refers to a separate place in the Sheol (the Abode of the dead) where the righteous dead were collected before Messiah died and resurrected. Pardes was emptied as the righteous dead arose from their graves. Interestingly Judaism teaches that penetration of the Torah to the level of “Sod” (hidden) assures one a place in pardes.

In a sense, studying the Torah should be like an onion peeling exercise - peeling off layers as you go deeper into its heart.

Pashat is the literal or plain and simple meaning of the text being studied.

Remez is the implied meaning of the text. The text is hinting at a deeper truth than what is revealed.

Drash is the allegorical, typological, homiletical meaning of the text being studied. Great creativity can be used in this level. You can search the Scriptures, other historical works (Talmud, etc.) in order to develop the application to the text. This process DOES involve esogesis of the text.

Sod is the hidden or esoteric meaning of the text. The word “mystical” may be correct if you are not offended by this word. It is the secret meaning of the text from using gematria (the adding of numerical values of Hebrew letters to find other words with the same sum). Most Christians are familiar with the verse in revelations which describes the number value of the Moshiach Neged (Anti-Messiah).

A student of the Torah must learn to use all four methods in order to properly interpret the Torah. But each method has to be progressed through consecutively. A good rule of measure is three parts plain meaning, two parts implied meaning and one part allegorical. If you spend your entire study session fishing for hidden meaning without a good grasp of the plain meaning, you’ll get yourself in a twist.

The potential avenues of study open to a student are endless and the old saying, “I’m not sure what G-d’s will for my life is” seem foolish as the answer is as obvious as the sky is blue – study His Word!!!!!

Rabbi Akiva, a leading teacher of Torah in his generation, who didn’t commence studying Torah until he was 40 years of age, could explain not only every letter of the Torah but even the little "crowns" that adorn the letters in the handwritten Torah scroll. Okay, sure Rabbi Akiva fell for a false Messiah; but did not King Solomon fall away altogether? His failure doesn’t mean we negate the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. On the contrary, Rabbi Akiva is actually very important to the Natsarim faith because, most of us, like Akiva have started Torah study late in our lives. So studying Akiva’s learning methodology is supremely beneficial.

The above mentioned parameters and methods of studying Torah were not derived haphazardly, but gleaned from a pattern that emerged from intense probing of its depths. This shows that Torah is a constant source of teaching, in every situation, and in every aspect of life, both practically and spiritually.

Take the case in point - the lighting of the menorah and other related details described in Parashah 36 (Numbers 8:1-4). We might think this law only relates to the time of the Temple. However, the Torah is speaking to our generation as well. The following points are among the “seventy facets of Torah”:

• The Menorah had to be made from one block of gold; no welding, no bolts and no dovetail joints. However, the Menorah had seven lamps, not just one. The Sages tell us that this aspect of the Menorah signifies the diversity of Jewish people -- seven branches, from the far left to the far right. The fact that the Menorah was made of one block of gold emphasizes the fact that despite the diversity, in essence we are all one.

• A second point concerns the flame of the Menorah. A burning flame consists of three things: the fuel (olive oil), the wick and the flame itself. The wick represents the physical body. The flame, striving ever upward, represents the spiritual radiance achieved by the person in their daily life. But in the case of the lamp, the wick needs fuel to replenish the flame. Likewise in the life of an Israelite: the fuel for the flame is the observance of the Torah and its laws. Without the fuel of Torah observance the spirit cannot achieve its task of bringing spiritual illumination to the world.

• A third point concerns the lighting of the lamps. This job was carried out by a priest (kohen) every day in the Temple. The commenter Rashi tells us that his task was not complete until the flame burned properly, of its own accord. It was not enough just to touch the wick and let a nascent flickering flame struggle for survival. The lesson here concerns our relations with others. Each of us has, at times, the role of a "priest", giving light to someone else. When helping a person find his or her feet in both material and spiritual matters, it is not enough merely to be of momentary aid. Help should continue until the person can stand on their own feet. For this reason the highest mode of giving charity to the poor is to set the needy person up in business, while in spiritual matters the goal is to ignite the flame of the person's "lamp" so that he or she can then ignite and inspire others.

The menorah is one of the oldest symbols of Judaism, predating the Shield of David by many hundreds of years. Some sources even suggest that a menorah, as opposed to a Star of David, was depicted on King David’s shield.
As we know, the menorah was originally used in the Temple. The Kohanim lit the menorah in the Sanctuary every evening and cleaned it out every morning, replacing the wicks and putting fresh olive oil into the cups. More detailed instructions for fashioning the menorah are found in Exodus 25:31-40.

The menorah is a symbol of the nation of Israel and our mission to be “a light unto the nations.” (Isaiah 42:6). The sages emphasize that light is not a violent force; Israel is to accomplish its mission by setting an example, not by using force. This idea is highlighted in the vision in Zechariah 4:1-6. Zechariah sees a menorah, and YHWH explains: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit.”

Remember; keep digging, because there is a reward greater than gold.

Shabbat Shalom!!

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