Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parasha #36 B’ha’alotkha (When you set up) B’midbar (Numbers 8:1-12:16)
Haftarah: Z’kharyah (Zechariah) 2:14-4:7
B’rit Chadashah: Hebrews 3:1-6
The first paragraph of our parashah is the source for numerous questions about the meaning and importance of the seven lamps. Addressing all of the thoughts and theories concerning these lamps would take more time than most students are willing to spend listening to a Torah teacher’s enumeration of each idea. However, I will address some of the symbology held by different groups, rabbis, individuals, and others.
The Menorah’s construction is first mentioned in Exodus 25:31 in great detail. This information was given to Moshe by G-d when he was on the mountain. G-d showed Moshe the design. It was to be made out of 66 pounds of pure gold. This is interesting because there are 66 chapters in the book of Isaiah, a book which speaks of salvation through the Messiah and identifies Yahshua as the suffering Servant and Messiah. Since biblical times, the seven-branched menorah has been the symbol of Judaism. For the ancient Jews, the seven branches represented the five visible planets, the sun, and the moon. This thought may have originated from Josephus’ description of the Menorah “…the shaft elevated itself on high from a single base, and spread itself into as many branches as there are planets, including the sun among them…” The rounded branches suggested these heavenly bodies’ path across the heavens.
According to Orthodox Judaism, the left side of the menorah is thought to represent those who engage in temporal activity, and the right represents those who pursue the spiritual endeavors. Others maintain the right side of the menorah represents G-d’s laws, and the left side His grace. Still others believe the seven lamps represent the seven angles of the seven “churches” mentioned in the book of Revelation. Regardless of which if any of these ideas to which one subscribes, G-d is very specific in his instruction to Moshe that Aharon is to make sure the seven lamps cast their light forward, in front of the menorah. Let’s look at other aspects of and significance of the menorah.
The light given off by the menorah would have been a magnificent site, a symbol of G-d’s Light (Yahshua), and holiness in a dark world. Jewish tradition holds that it is a reminder that the people of Israel are called to be his “light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). Although the original biologic Israelites were the nation selected to be an example for the rest if the world, the biological Jews do not hold a monopoly on this mission. Anyone defined as a “true Jew” according to Romans 2-3, John 14, and the Seven-fold Witness in the book of Revelation, assumes the same responsibility as the original Israelites. That is as Yahshua said “if anyone wants to come after me, let him say ‘No’ to himself, take up his execution -stake daily and keep following me.”
In Zechariah 4:6 we read that the menorah is a symbol of bringing G-d’s glory, light, and truth into the world and that His people are tasked with this responsibility as His chosen treasure. This assignment is further described in Matthew 5: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Now we know that seven is G-d’s number of completions. Interestingly, although there are seven lamps/branches, they are all made from the same piece; one piece of gold. Seven branches inextricably connected with the same focus; shining light forward with the servant lamp in the middle; G-d in the midst. There are seven assemblies addressed in Revelation, but only one bride of Yahshua.
The seven branches also resemble a tree. In Jewish tradition, the menorah represents the Tree of Life. They are correct but in ways they do not yet understand. The Tree of Life is Yahshua=YHVH=G-d’s Torah. In the book of Revelation, the tree is equated with eternal life. Similarly, Yahshua is equated with eternal life. Revelation 22 informs the reader that those with clean robes (repentant believers) have the right to eat from it. The menorah speaks of eternal Light/life with believers from “both sides of the isle” ? connected to the Source of that eternal life.
Interestingly, if we read Genesis 1:1, we find there are seven words describing the Source of our universe. Not only that, the typically untranslatable alef-tav in traditional Judaism is in the fourth position in the sentence. The middle lamp corresponding to the fourth position in the sentence and in the Menorah was called Ner Elohim, the “Lamp of G-d” as well as the Shamash, the “Servant Lamp.” The meaning of this alef-tav is very clear to Messianic Jewish believers who read the entirety of G-d’s Torah, for Yahshua who is YHVH states in Revelation 22:13: “ I am the ‘A ’and the ‘Z,’ the First and the Last, the beginning and the End.” Alef is the first letter of the Hebrew alef bet and Tav is the last letter. The numeric value of Alef in the Hebrew numbering system of Gematria is 1. The numeric value of Tav is 400. Together we have 401 which represents a mix of energies and vibrations. The number 4 symbolizes effort, hard work, building foundations for the future, pragmatism, organization, system, order, honesty, tradition, dependability, patience, determination, dependability, passion, and drive. Do these attributes seem to describe our Messiah to some degree? Examples in our universe of the use of the number 4 are the number of limbs on the human body, the number of chambers in the human heart, the number of each of the radial arteries, ulnar veins, brachial veins, floating ribs, parathyroid glands, and many other features of the human body. There are also four seasons, and the four basic directions. But most importantly, in the context of the location of the Servant candle/lamp, Messianic believers know that this represents Yahshua who is at the center of the universe and our lives. We can neither obtain nor share any light with the world that is not given by G-d. May we never forget our place in the menorah and that we are all made from one hammered piece of gold; no seams, no cracks. Each of us are to shine our lights forward daily in whatever way we are given opportunity for His glory.
The buds, leaves, cups, rings of outer leaves and petals are not mentioned in our parashah as they are in Exodus 25:31-36, although the design mentioned in our parashah is described in verses 17-40 with the instruction that the light from the lamps is to give light to the space in front of the menorah. The significance of the buds, leaves, cups, rings for the outer leaves and petals is for another teaching but I want to mention that the Hebrew word for almond (luz)has become a root for “light” in other languages. The almond tree was a prominent figure in the Menorah’s design. The entire life cycle of the tree is present in the Menorah and may remind us of Aharon’s rod that budded in the same way, representing the fact that the Aaronic priesthood would go on forever (Num. 17:1-12)
Encoded in the first paragraph of genesis, at 50 letter intervals, we find the Hebrew word for Torah. To rule out the possibility that this is just a coincidence, the Hebrew word for Torah is found encoded in the introductory paragraphs of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The number 50 is significant because the Torah was given on Mount Sinai on the 50th day after crossing the Red Sea.
In the books of Deuteronomy and Numbers, the Hebrew word for Torah is spelled backwards. These backwards spellings for Torah seem to represent opposite lamps to Genesis and Exodus in this five-lamp menorah. All four encoded Torahs must be pointing back to the Servant Lamp found in the first sentence of Genesis alluded to in the fourth word of a seven -word sentence.
There is so much more to share on the subject of encoding in the Torah of G-d and the relationship to the Menorah but this is a teaching for another time, going beyond the scope of our discussion on the Menorah as it relates to its light.
Haftarah: Z’kharyah (Zechariah) 2:14-4:7
This haftarah contains a vision of the golden Temple Menorah, whose daily kindling is our main subject of discussion this week. This prophecy was committed to Zechariah shortly before the building of the Second Temple. G-d outlines the rewards that await Joshua and his descendants if they follow G-d’s ways. The greatest reward of which is the Messiah, the Shoot of David.
Zechariah then describes a vision of a golden seven-branched Menorah. An angel interprets the meaning of this vision. “This is the word of the L-rd to Zerubbabel, (descendant of King David, one of the protagonists in the building of the Second Temple. “Not by military force and not by physical strength, but by My Spirit, says the L-rd of Hosts.” Zerubbabel’s descendant, Messiah, will have no difficulty in accomplishing His task. It will be as simple as lighting a menorah.
B’rit Chadashah: Hebrews 3:1-6
The information in this passage explains the parallels between Moshe and Yahshua. Yahshua, like Moshe at Sinai, was G-d emissary, conveying G-d’s truth and instructions (Torah) to the people of Israel. In the Old Testament, Israel was represented by the 12 tribes. In the B’rit Chadashah Israel represents all true believers according to the seven-fold witness found in the book of Revelation. In this first comparison between Moshe and Yahshua, Yahshua fills the role of being a prophet like Moshe, as predicted in Deuteronomy 18:15-19. Also, like Moshe, Yahshua intercedes for the people (7:25), and as such He is fulfilling the role of a cohen, a priest, just as Moshe did when the people worshipped the golden calf (Ex. 32:32, and in many other instances. Let’s now look at some of the differences.
Yahshua is not merely on the same level as Moshe, the paragon of virtue within Judaism (faithful in all G-d’s house), but better than Moshe; just as he is better than angels and all other human beings in general. Thus, Yahshua deserves more honor than Moshe. Moshe was a servant; Yahshua is the Son but also G-d. For a more detailed explanation of the differences between a servant and a son in Gal. 4:1-7; Yochanan (John) 15:15. In Heb.3:3 the difference is made between Moshe who managed the house of Israel and the Tabernacle, and Yahshua who built the house and will build the Temple of the L-rd( Zech. 6:12-13), “ And speak unto him, saying, This speaketh the L-rd of hosts saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the L-rd: Even he shall build the temple of the L-rd; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” Finally Heb.3:6 speaks of the oneness of Yahshua with and as G-d, “But Yahshua as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast to the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.”
Rabbi Tamah Davis -Hart
Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue