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    Pure light – Emor

    The kohanim had the duty of making sure that the sanctuary lights burned properly (Lev. 24). The kohen gadol was in charge and had to “arrange the lamps upon the pure candlestick” (Lev. 24:4; see also Ex. 31:8).

    A pure candlestick? One can understand pure water, pure food, pure love, pure devotion… but a pure candlestick?

    The view of Rashi is that it is described like this because the metal of the candlestick was pure gold, not a strange jumble of other substances; or perhaps the word “pure” means that it had been cleaned and any residue removed.

    Another commentator explains that the lamps had to rest upon the candlestick itself, unsupported by chips of wood or pebbles. A good practical explanation, but if we regard the sanctuary appurtenances as symbols we notice something precious in this interpretation which we might otherwise have missed.

    A flame cannot burn by itself: it has to be attached to something. That “something” has to be stable in and of itself, not propped up by chips of wood or pebbles. If we remember that the Bible often tells us that Torah is light, we see that Torah, like the lights, must have a firm foundation. Once we prop the Torah up by means of, for example, superstition, it loses its intrinsic capacity to guide the minds of people who think.

    Maimonides is the supreme example of a Jewish philosopher who had no time for folk superstitions but was certain that there was pure (that word again!) reasonability in religious belief.

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