The dove of peace
The dove of peacescreenshot

[Hakarat HaTov to Rabbi Shlomo Riskin from whom I learned some of the key concepts presented here.]

World Peace. It is so desperately desired by so many. Certainly the eradication of frank evil embodied by Hamas, Hezb’allah, and the mad mullahs of Iran will be a huge step towards world peace and stability. Why, then, are actors such as Jordan, Egypt, the EU, the US, South Africa and the Vatican so committed to preventing it?

This week's parshah sheds some light - quite literally - on this question.

We learn this week of the construction of the Mishkan, the desert Tabernacle, with all its detailed instructions and specifications. From the description, it must have been compellingly beautiful to behold. "And they will make for me a Mikdash - a sanctified space - that I may dwell among them."

There are two features of the Mishkan that represent Torah: one, of course, is the Ark of the Covenant, which held the Tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were engraved; and the other was the Menorah, the candelabra. Why was there a need for two such symbols? The answers lie in the unique construction details of these spectacular vessels.

How exactly does the Menorah represent Torah? Because it says in Mishlei (Proverbs) that "ner mitzvah v'torah or," a single mitzvah is like a candle, and Torah - the sum of all the individual mitzvahs - is like a brilliant light. The light of the menorah symbolizes the brilliant light of Torah.

But it’s even deeper than that. If you stand back and look at the Menorah, you'll see it actually looks like a tree. In fact, the Torah describes it as having branches, leaves and flowers.

When we think of a tree and Torah, what's the first verse that pops into your head? "It is a Tree of Life for those who grab on to it, for those who rely on it will be gladdened." Etz Chaim Hee, again from Mishlei. And when we think of an Etz Chaim, what other Etz Chaim comes to mind? Maybe...the Tree of Life which stands in the center of the Garden of Eden. So the symbolism of the Menorah is meant to suggest to us the pristine harmony of Eden; a piece of art which is itself in perfect balance and symmetry, reflective of the ideal of a world in perfect balance and symmetry; a world where all of its elements work naturally together in the vivifying light of all that is good and holy. In other words – world peace.

This hearkening back to Eden, though, is a universal longing, not just reserved for the Children of Israel. This yearning belongs to all peoples of the world. And this, in fact, is exactly what the Menorah represents: with its seven lights, representing the Seven Laws of the Torah which are incumbent upon all of mankind, projecting its brilliant light outward into the world, the menorah symbolizes the universal Torah that belongs to every person – Christian, Moslem, Buddhist, the post-modern ‘No Religionist’ - any & all who seek genuine closeness with Gcd.

The Ark of the Covenant was hidden away, protected in the bosom of the Holy of Holies, like a priceless treasure. And in that way, it is emblematic of the unique Abrahamitic Covenant between the A-lmighty and the Jewish people, who are described as “Am Segulah,” a Treasured People. The Ark – the introspective, particularistic Torah of Am Yisrael; the Menorah – the expansive, universalistic Torah of the Seven Laws.

To say it in a different way: the sub-structure for world peace was built right into the fabric of Jewish life, of Jewish thought, into the very structure of Gcd’s House, right from the outset.

Perhaps this is the deeper meaning of the Midrash that speaks of Moshe's inability to conceptualize the construction of the menorah, until the A-lmighty, as it were, drew him a picture. How, Moshe puzzled, do we achieve world peace and harmony as symbolized by the Menorah? It seems so distant and hard to conceive. Here, Hashem says, I'll show you.

The nation of Israel is described as “A Kingdom of Priests and a Nation Set Apart.” In order to fulfill our divine mission to minister, to guide, and to teach the nations about compassionate, ethical monotheism, we ourselves must enthusiastically adhere to the 613 – the Torah of the Ark of the Covenant.

What about the rest of the world? Maybe, like Lou Jacobi once quipped, when you’re in love, the whole world is Jewish?” Nice try Lou, but - NO. Gcd didn’t make the whole world Jewish; the A-lmighty, in his infinite wisdom, created the seventy nations of the world for a reason. Each nation, and each individual member of every nation, has a unique contribution to make to the betterment of the world. Not to become Jewish, but to be true to themselves. Hashem doesn’t desire rigid uniformity from us. In the wonderful diversity of cultures and views, He designed the world to better express ourselves and utilize our unique talents and special insights. But first, we must acknowledge Gcd as the source of those gifts. Its one teeny tiny thing, but a crucial thing: we have to recognize Gcd’s guidance in human affairs.

It is very important to note that the Menorah was not made of seven billion pieces of gold, all skillfully welded together to form a composite. It was formed from one massive piece of gold, which was then sculpted and shaped into its many individual features. So it is with humankind; every person, and every nation, has a unique voice, a unique gift, a unique spark of the divine to contribute. But how do we embark on the task of world peace with a cacophony of seven billion disparate ideas? We can’t start from a place of individuation.

Like the menorah, every feature, every differentiation, must be fashioned from the same ingot of gold. No welds; its all of a piece. That ingot is the Seven Laws. From the unity of Gcd’s law flows the diversity of textured harmonic expression. World peace begins the day the nations come to recognize that there is no morality which excludes the A-lmighty. When all people recognize the inherent justice and beauty of the Seven Laws, commanded to us by a Gcd who is totally good, and who desires only good for His creatures; only then can the unique contribution of each individual find its proper expression, and only then will the seeds of world peace begin to sprout. Gcd wants us all – Jew and Gentile - to work together, each in his own capacity and in fulfillment his own divine calling, to help prepare the world for the Kingdom of Heaven (as we say in the Aleinu prayer). That is the message of the Menorah.

So the first necessary step to perfecting the world is to work on ourselves. It’s relatively easy to hold up a placard at a protest or sit-in; its much harder to become a more educated person, a more refined and sensitive moral agent. That is the mysterious secret ingredient that eludes the well meaning seekers of world peace. For there can be no peace without acknowledging that the basis for human morality and civility can only be found in Gcd, and in the light of His Menorah, and in the light of His Torah.

As mentioned above, it is crucial that humanity recognize Gcd’s guidance in human affairs.

In light of the spectacular success of the IDF in Gaza and the imminent battle in Rafah, voices are rising around the world to stop Israel from achieving complete victory.

They should listen more and talk less and recognize the Hand of the One True Gcd in our successes.

"And they will make for me a Mikdash that I may dwell among them.” Hashem desires to dwell among us – if we will only let him in.

Rabbi Mizrachiis the author of Holistic Judaism: A Radical Rethinking of Our Service to Gcd and our Fellow Man in the Messianic Age. Available on Amazon.com and Kindle. He can be reached at [email protected].