Sending forth the light: In memory of Ori Ansbacher Hy"d

"Arise, Ori, because your light has come, and Hashem’s Glory has shone upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). Ori has ascended to the highest, murdered by a despicable representative of an already-evil creed. Her light will indeed rise in holiness and purity.

Daniel Pinner, | updated: 07:58

Judaism Daniel Pinner
Daniel Pinner
INN:DP

Parashat Tetzaveh, yesterday's Torah reading,  begins and ends with light.

It begins with G-d commanding Moshe, “And you shall command the Children of Israel to take for yourself pure pressed olive-oil for the light, to kindle the candle continually” (Exodus 27:20).

The word which the Torah uses here for “kindle” is לְהַעֲלֹת, literally “to raise” rather than “to kindle”. True, Targum Onkelos and Targum Yonatan both translate לְהַעֲלֹת into Aramaic as לְאַדְלָקָא, “to kindle”, but the fact remains that the Torah uses the verb לְהַעֲלֹת, “to raise”.

Rashi explains לְהַעֲלֹת, “to raise” to denote “to kindle until the flame rises by itself”.

The Ibn Ezra says, in slightly more detail: “Because it is the manner of the light [fire] of the candle to rise as a flame, because this is what fire does”.

And Parashat Tetzaveh concludes by commanding that “when Aaron will kindle the candles toward evening, he will burn the incense, continual incense before Hashem throughout your generations” (Exodus 30:8). The Torah against uses the verb וּבְהַעֲלֹת, literally “when Aaron will raise the candles...” rather than “kindle the candles”.

Again Targum Onkelos and Targum Yonatan both translate וּבְהַעֲלֹת, “will raise”, into Aramaic as וּבְאַדְלָקוּת, “will kindle”. And Rashi comments here, “When he will kindle them, to raise their flames”.

The fire on the Altar of the Mishkan (the Sanctuary), and later in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, was used to burn the meat of the sacrifices. There were four broad categories of sacrifice: the חַטָּאת (sin-offering), the אָשָׁם (guilt-offering), the שְׁלָמִים (peace-offerings), and the עוֹלָה.

It is the last of these which is relevant here.

The word עוֹלָה means “elevation” or “that which rises” (from the root עַל, “on”). There were 13 categories of עוֹלָה:

 

The תָּמִיד (twice-daily sacrifice, morning and afternoon, which we commemorate today with the Morning and Afternoon Services);

The Festival Sacrifice on the three Pilgrimage Festivals;

The מוּסָף (additional sacrifices for Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Festivals, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur);

The sacrifice which accompanied the Omer;

The sacrifice which accompanied the two loaves on Shavuot;

The Kohan Gadol’s personal sacrifice on Yom Kippur;

The personal sacrifice a woman brought after giving birth;

The personal sacrifice a Nazirite brought when his Naziritehood finished;

The personal sacrifice a metzora’ (often mistranslated as “leper”) brought when he was cleansed;

The communal sacrifice as atonement for communal idolatry;

The personal sacrifice a convert brought;

The personal sacrifice anyone could bring as a voluntary offering;

And the קֵיץ-הַמִּזְבֵחַ, voluntary offerings which anyone could bring, which were sacrificed on the Altar at times when there were no other sacrifices to offer upon it, so that the Altar would not be left unattended and abandoned [1].

 

These sacrifices would all be burnt on the Altar, hence the name עוֹלָה: that which burns goes up in smoke; and hence the alternative English renderings, “burnt-offerings” or “elevation-offerings”.

These sacrifices also suggest the identity between burning and rising, between kindling and raising – the idea with which Parashat Tetzaveh begins and ends.

Light is a frequent metaphor for Torah, “because the candle is a Mitzvah and the Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23), and “Hashem is my Light and my Salvation” (Psalms 27:1).

But fire is as much a force for destruction as for holiness: the fire on the Altar and the fire of the candles were a spiritual elevation to holiness; but both Holy Temples were subsequently destroyed by fire.

There can be no example more poignant than Rabbi Chaninah ben Teradyon who was murdered in Kiddush Hashem (Sanctifying the Name of G-d). It was shortly after the Romans had crushed the Bar Kochba Revolt, and the great Rabbi Akiva, the spiritual leader of the Revolt, had recently been arrested and murdered by the Romans (135 C.E.).

Rabbi Chaninah ben Teradyon, Rabbi Akiva’s contemporary and friend, continued to defy the Romans and their decrees by teaching Torah to the masses in Israel. He ran a Yeshivah in Sikhnin (Sanhedrin 32b) in the Galilee (the modern-day Sakhnin, entirely Arab-populated), exactly half-way between the Kinneret and the Mediterranean Sea.

And eventually he, too, was caught and arrested.

The Romans – with their typical ingenuity with which they so often invented ever-crueller methods of execution – wrapped him in a Sefer Torah (a Torah-scroll) and burned him and the Sefer Torah together, with water-logged wads of cotton-wool so he would die slower in greater agony.

His daughter and his students were gathered at this public execution, and screamed in their distraught devastation.

And Rabbi Chaninah ben Teradyon, while he was being burnt, called out words of comfort to his daughter:

“Had I been burnt alone, it may have been difficult for me; but now I am being burnt with the Sefer Torah – I know that He Who will avenge the Sefer Torah will also avenge me!”.

And as his daughter screamed in horror “Is this the Torah, and is this its reward?”, he called out to her:

“My daughter, why are you crying? If you are crying for me, then don’t cry – because better to be burnt by a fire that man has lit than by a fire which G-d has lit. And if you are crying for the Sefer Torah, then don’t cry – because behold! the Torah itself is fire, and fire cannot destroy fire” (Avodah Zarah 18a, Semachot 8:12).

Such is the dual nature of fire: it can desecrate and sanctify, it can destroy and it can build, it can bring death and it can give life, it can defile and it can purify.

We have spoken of the עוֹלָה, the burnt-offering/elevation offering. But the identical letters, vowellised differently, give the word עַוְלָה, wickedness or evil. Like fire – like light – the עולה can be good or evil.

A week ago, Israel – indeed all decent humans – were shocked and devastated by the particularly sadistic and gruesome murder of Ori Ansbacher Hy”d in Jerusalem.

Her name, אוֹרִי, denotes light. As the prophet said: קוּמִי אוֹרִי כִּי בָא אוֹרֵךְ, וּכְבוֹד ה' עָלַיִךְ זָרָח – “Arise, Ori, because your light has come, and Hashem’s Glory has shone upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).

Ori has ascended to the highest, murdered by a particularly despicable representative of an already-evil creed. Her light will indeed rise in holiness and purity.

The evil fires which seek to extinguish our fires will themselves be extinguished. Our עוֹלָה will inevitably defeat their עַוְלָה.

And our fires, like the light with which Parashat Tetzaveh begins and ends, will continue to rise and to burn, and to illuminate our path to sanctity and to ultimate redemption.

Endnote

[1] These sacrifices were called קֵיץ-הַמִּזְבֵחַ because the word קֵיץ, which literally means “end” (a cognate of קַיִץ, “summer”, the end of the harvest), is also a synonym for “fruit” (see 2 Samuel 16:2, Jeremiah 40:10, Micah 7:1 et al.). Just as fruit is typically placed on the table as a sweet at the end of a meal, so too these voluntary sacrifices were placed on the Altar as “sweets” at the end of the “meal” of the regular sacrificial service.




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