Time to Move Forward

Silver trumpets from King
Tut’s tomb. 1326BCE

This week’s Torah portion introduces us to two objects that were of great importance  to the Israelites as they  traveled through the wilderness. Both are made of precious metals, the first of gold, the second of silver. Both were to be made by hammering, a process of shaping metals into forms. The first of these objects is the Menorah. It was to be made of hammered gold. The second were two trumpets. They were to be made of hammered silver.

What is the connection between the menorah and the two trumpets? The 16th century Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, suggests that the three branches on either side of the stalk of the menorah represent scientific and academic knowledge, whereas the stalk in the center represents the light of the Torah. This teaches us that science and religion are not rivals. They are both gifts of G-d. They shed light on one another and together illuminate our world. Thus, the menorah is the physical representation of the Divine light, as when we say, in the priestly blessing, “May G-d shine His light upon you..” In this blessing, we are asking G-d to guide us by illuminating our path through life. We might stumble in our steps moving forward without G-d’s guidance. 

The two silver trumpets represent another way of moving forward. When both trumpets are blown in long blasts, the entire community is to gather at the Tent of Meeting. When only one is blown, it is a signal for only the leaders to assemble. But if both are blown in short blasts, the entire People of Israel are to move forward.

But the trumpets are not only used to rouse the people. They are used to arouse G-d as well!  In wartime, the trumpets are sounded to alert G-d that Israel is in trouble, and on festivals the trumpets are sounded to remind G-d that the Jewish people are faithfully observing the holidays. 

So there we have it! The menorah is used to remind the Jewish people of G-d’s presence, whereas the trumpets are used to remind G-d of our presence!  The light of the Menorah is a reminder that G-d’s light is always with us. This is the light, as I said earlier, of friendship and love,  of knowledge and wisdom. It is the light of justice, truth and peace. Whereas we see the light, G-d hears the trumpets.  When G-d hears the trumpets G-d will know we are in danger and come to our aid. When we sound the trumpets on our festivals, it is a reminder to G-d that we are standing before our Sovereign, and that G-d should take notice.  

While the light of the menorah reminds us of the Presence of G-d in our lives, the blast of the trumpet signifies that we must take action and move forward in accordance with that light. The trumpet represents human agency, the need to move, to act decisively when summoned by the times. We need both the Presence of G-d in our lives as well as our own strength to meet the challenges of our times. When the Covid 19 crisis arose, many saw it as  “the defining moment of our generation” — an enormous, disruptive event that will shape our lives for years to come. As we emerge from this crisis, we, as a Jewish community, will have to find our way forward. Jewish leaders all around the world are asking how this pandemic  will affect our communities, for better and for worse, in the coming years.

It is time to blast the trumpets once again, as we leave the Covid era behind and move forward into a world that has been greatly changed. Through our awareness of G-d’s presence, symbolized by the menorah, and through our ability to come together and advance as one, symbolized by the trumpets, we will surely meet the challenges of the future successfully.

Shabbat Shalom