This first appeared in the September 2020 edition of our monthly newsletter. View the archives »

The name of the bulletin of Congregation B’nai Israel is Eternal Light, a reference to the Ner Tamid, the eternal light that hangs above the ark in our sanctuary. The Ner Tamid is mentioned in the Torah as a light that is to be kept lit constantly in the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary in the wilderness.

The light is not really “eternal,” only God is the Eternal One. But if we go into the sanctuary and see that the light is out, it is jarring and unsettling. There is no ceremony or ritual to restart the Ner Tamid, we just ask James to replace the bulb, and to turn on the light again.

A more accurate translation of Ner Tamid, is perpetual light, a light that we as human beings work to keep lit constantly, with intention, and with the understanding that if it goes out, we need to do our best to restart it. Having given us the task of keeping the light lit, God isn’t asking for perfection, just that we do our human best.

We are preparing for the High Holy Days and for the start of 5781. As we reflect on the past year, we can keep in mind the image of the Ner Tamid. We remember that we are human, that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes, and at times the light can go out. But we still have the obligation to do the work to re-light the flame through reflection, through repentance/forgiveness, through prayer, through acts of charity; and keeping that flame going. Keeping the flame going is easier with the help and support of our sacred community.