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The Eternal Torch, Olympic and Otherwise

Posted on 02/07/2014 @ 04:00 PM

I'll be honest and admit that I was pretty upset when I heard that International Convention was smack in the middle of the Winter Olympics. I live for the Olympics, looking forward to those two weeks every other year where nothing else matters. I love it all, from the opening ceremonies to fierce competition; feeling the surge of patriotic feelings and experiencing the triumph of the human spirit.

The Olympics actually never end; they just die down for a while, as the flame continues to travel around the world. Sound familiar? We have our own Olympic flame in Judaism, the Ner Tamid or Eternal Light (or perhaps more literally, the 'continual lamp.'). In this week’s parsha, Tetzaveh, we learn about the details of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, God’s portable dwelling place while the Israelites traveled to Eretz Yisrael, and all the intricacies which make it Holy. The Ner Tamid described in our parsha outlasted the Mishkan and now resides atop the Bimah (ark) in almost all synagogues around the world.

Parshat Tetzaveh continues to describe the minute details of the wardrobe of the high priest, including how he would wear a robe in the color of tekhelet, a blue dye that is also found in the threads of tzitzit (fringes). Fittingly, we as BBYO staff will all be donning blue fleece vests during International Convention, doing the Holy work of leading 2000 Jewish teenagers through a week of transformative experiences. There’s a tendency to think that only Rabbis can do Holy work, but this is not the case at all. Every time I see a ninth grader find a new home in a chapter of Alephs or BBGs, I know we are doing Holy work. And every time I watch a senior plan an entire convention for their peers and take steps to become the Jewish leader they want to be, this too is sacred.

Now I see how perfect it is that IC and the Olympics are happening at the same time. As the Olympic torch is carried through the Stadium to light the "Olympic Ner Tamid" to mark the beginning of the ceremonies, the light of Judaism is going to shine brighter than ever as 2,000 teens from around the world gather to show the world that our movement is alive and well.

The spark of this Shabbat Message comes from Leah Newman, Program Associate in CRW

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