Why Was the Ner Tamid Lit in the Mishkan and Bet HaMikdash? Explaining How Hashem’s Berachah Will Take Effect When we Put in Our Effort First
From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv and translated by Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK.
This Shabbat, we shall read about the mitzvah of the Ner Tamid (Constant Lamp) in the Mishkan and Bet HaMikdash, which used clear illuminating oil, made from hand crushed olives, as the passuk states, “…to bring you clear illuminating oil, made from hand crushed olives, to keep the lamp constantly burning” (Shemot 27:20). It needs to be understood, why is there a constant lamp in the Bet HaMikdash? Does Hashem require this light? The whole world is full with His glory, He lights up the world and those who live in it. The sun is one of His creations and we are unable to gaze at it directly due to its enormous brightness and heat. If so, to what end does the mitzvah of lighting a Ner Tamid in the Bet HaMikdash serve?
In the Midrash Tanchuma this question is asked and they answer with an analogy about two people who lived together. One with weak vision and the other with 20/20 vision.
After some time, the one with excellent vision said to his fellow with poor vision “Light a lamp for us”. His friend replied to him, “You see well, so why do you need the lamp?” His friend replied, “In truth I don’t require the lamp, my whole request that you light the lamp is for your benefit so that you may see more clearly and it is for your honour that I requested this.” Here too with the mitzvah of the Ner Tamid in the Bet HaMikdash, certainly Hashem doesn’t require the light for Himself, rather, the purpose of this mitzvah is for us, that this light illuminate for us and it is for our honour.
To explain this further, we will elaborate as follows. Everything that we merit in this world, whether it be health, life, a livelihood, status and the like, everything is from Heaven. As our chachamim say, everything is from Heaven except the fear of Heaven [Berachot 33b]. However, the Divine assistance only comes when a person exerts all his efforts through the natural way of the world, and only then, he merits to Divine assistance that the berachah may take effect on his handiwork. A sick person has a mitzvah to go to a doctor, but he also has an obligation to pray to Hashem, who heals all flesh, that he give a berachah and Divine assistance to the doctor that he will successfully treat and provide the appropriate medicines that are suitable for him. Likewise, a person must be concerned with his livelihood, with prayer from the depths of his hearth to his Creator that He give a berachah on his actions and makes his business succeed. Similarly, all the fruit and vegetables that we need, only grow after the farmer ploughs the land and sows the seeds, and only after that the rain and sun which come from Hashem bring the berachah and success for the fruit and vegetables to grow. But if the rain were to fall all day and night, and the farmer didn’t sow, then nothing will happen. This is to teach us that Hashem Created His world in such a way that a person shall do what is required of him and only then through belief and prayer will Hashem give His berachah for success and abundant blessing.
This is the idea behind the Ner Tamid. Hashem wants to give us abundant light of berachah and success in all that we do, and to give to all of Am Yisrael in general, and to each and every one of us in our own unique way. And so the resting of the Shechinah and the source of berachah for Am Yisrael is found in the Mishkan and Bet HaMikdash. Therefore Am Yisrael were commanded to kindle the Ner Tamid and to do what is incumbent upon them. Then Hashem will convey His berachah and abundant light and blessing to Am Yisrael in each and every place. In this way, the mitzvah that we have is for our honour and benefit.
When does this apply? It often occurs that we wish to succeed with our studies, livelihood and spiritual welfare, and yet we do nothing, claiming “If Hashem wants, then He will grant us this without us doing anything”. But according to our words above, this is incorrect. Rather, a person must endeavour to do all that he can in the natural course of effort and progress, and only then, through belief and prayer, will he merit to berachah and success in what he does.
May we merit to apply this and may we merit that the berachah shall rest on our actions. Amen.