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Exodus 25:1 – 27:19


Jewish Mysticism holds as fundamental truth that every being—all of us—is but a container for, a manifestation of the Divine Presence. As such, we are asked to make ourselves—as best we can—selfless, compassionate servants of the Most High, that we might express these sacred dimensions of Being through our lives. How? By practicing the threefold path of Torah (Wisdom,) Avodah (Spiritual Practice) and Gemilut Chasadim (Acts of Loving-Kindness.)

In this week’s Torah portion that path is symbolically expressed through the Divine instructions Moses receives for making the Ark of the Covenant (Torah), fashioning the golden Menorah/Lampstand (Avodah), and carving the gold-layered Table of the Bread (Gemilut Chasadim). Needless to say, the above description departs from the literal and enters the realm of Kabbalistic interpretation.

For the Kabbalists, the Ark of the Covenant is seen as the interface between the non-manifest and the manifest worlds. The Ark is a wooden box whose top is layered with gold—a luminous and eternal quality. This gold top is raised around its perimeter and shaped like a crown/keter. In Kabbalah that crown/keter is seen as the highest spiritual dimension, that of Atzilut/Emanation. Atop that gold cover are carved two golden cherubs/cherubim (fierce angelic creatures) reminiscent of those God sent to guard the gate to the Garden of Eden. In between them is the space where the Divine Presence, the Shechinah, dwells. The Ark of the Covenant with the Torah inside is that container suspended between Heaven and Earth, Emptiness and Form. Out of it, from the Torah, cascade down the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which are twenty-two paths of Creation and of spiritual awakening. And these are expressed through the symbol of the Menorah.

The Menorah, for our mystics, is a representation of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. For them, the three branches issuing from each side of the central lamp stand are the three sephirot on the left and right sides of the Tree of Life, while the central stand represents the central pillar of identity of that Tree with its four sephirot: three at the intersection with the branches themselves, and one above them as the cup for the light. Twenty-two almond-blossom cups are carved on the Menorah, three on each branch and four on the central stand, symbolic of the flow of the twenty-two letters. This is where Avodah expresses. Our path is to let the wisdom of spiritual teachings, of Torah (as represented by the twenty-two letters) flow from the higher reaches of our Self and infuse all aspects of our self (Menorah) from our intellect to our heart, our desires and our actions. In doing so, through worship, service, and spiritual practice, we can’t help but become channels of a Wisdom expressing as compassion, care, generosity and love.

From that space, through Gemilut Chasadim (natural acts of loving-kindness), we will set a table layered with gold for all beings to come and eat. It will be the Table of the Bread from which all creatures will be sustained, nourished, and provided for. We will awaken to the sacredness of Creation and know within it the Holy Presence of Shechinah. We will manifest through our actions the Sacred Dimensions of our being.