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Beit Midrash Series Ein Ayah

The Torah’s Impact on Our Spiritual and Physical Lives

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(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:16)

Gemara: The pasuk says, "Outside of the partition of the testament [between the Holy and the Holy of Holies] they will arrange [the menora (candelabrum)]" (Shemot 27:21). Did He really need its light? Is it not so that during the forty years in the desert, they went in His light? Rather it is a testament to the people of the world that the Divine Presence dwells within Israel.

Ein Ayah: The internal light, the light of the Torah, divine inspiration, and prophecy, flowed from the light that emanated from the Beit Hamikdash. Hashem provided it for Israel alone, whereas the nations did not have a part in it.
The light of Torah provides Bnei Yisrael with guidance that elevates them above the lowliness of materialism and brings them close to the divine light. Even if this light would keep them in the dark concerning external, nonspiritual life and not help them progress and adorn their intellect in practical physical matters, this spiritual light would still be worthwhile. However, in truth, Hashem’s Torah also teaches us things in mundane life. Its wisdom helps us succeed and become a powerful nation, full of practical knowledge and wisdom, as the Torah’s special sanctity elevates Israel to a lofty station with a spirit of sanctity and knowledge of Hashem and His ways.
By means of parable, the menora spread its light outside the partition of the testament. The light at this location indicates internal light, connected to the honor of Hashem, reaching beyond to provide Israel with external light. This external light provides Israel with good manners as individuals and a dignified mode of activity as a state and kingdom.
One may wonder: why does a holy nation, which possesses holy, internal light, need external light, whose purpose is for matters that are the realm of the nations, whose satisfaction is limited to external life. That is what the gemara meant by saying, "Is it not so that during the forty years in the desert, they went in His light?" In other words, during that time, when Israel’s life was based on miracles, they lacked nothing, even though they did not have experience in normal activities needed to provide for a nation in the physical world. Rather, miracles from Hashem’s "strong hand" and the revelation of His Divine Presence provided for them. Doesn’t that show that Israel does not need a lower level of cultural life?
If Israel could maintain the high level they reached in the desert indefinitely, that would have be fine. However, Hashem could not allow a situation whereby if they sinned and their level went down, they would have no preparation for an external light that would then be necessary. That requires a lowering of level, which emanates from sanctity, which enables other forms of service of Hashem and setting a different form of sanctity.
The gemara continues by explaining that the light was to show the world that the Divine Presence dwelled in Israel. Specifically, only when external light connects to internal light, does Israel overlap with the rest of the world. The nations that reach a nice level in their natural development will recognize the grandeur and sanctity of the Torah and its paths and will come to grasp the upright ways of Hashem and His wisdom through the light of Israel. This is possible only when an external light shines also on Israel. This enables the nations to appreciate what we have to offer, whereas they are not prepared to absorb internal light, and the testament itself would not impact upon them. When the two lights are connected and we are able to develop good natural lives as a developed nation through the light the nations can see, along with Torah, then we will be able to serve as a proper testament.
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