Can You Give Me a Jump?

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As I was getting into my car in the parking lot of Izzys bagels in Palo Alto, I got a phone call from someone in need, and it turned out to be a long one – over an hour. When I hung up and tried to turn on the engine, it was flat. What was the problem? The battery? Why wouldn’t the battery work? Looking into it, I realized that I had actually turned the key in the ignition only half way - so that all the functions of the car were running, like the headlights, the phone charger etc. but the engine wasn’t actually on. Do that for an hour and you drain the battery.

But after all the investigations came up with a great explanation for why it wasn’t working, I was still no closer to being able to drive my car…

So I asked a couple of people in the car park (as we like to say in Britain, or parking lot for you Americans ;) ) and after a few minutes two friendly men agreed to give me a jump. We hooked up the batteries and presto, my car started right away.

But I was still left with one question: this isn’t the first time that I had run the headlights, phone charger etc. for more than an hour. In fact, I had driven all the way to S Barbara (five hours) a few time with the entire gear running and never had a problem. Why?

And the answer is obvious; when the car engine is running, it is recharging the battery at the same time. So although the battery is being used, it is being charged simultaneously. When I was in the parking lot, I had used the battery but it hadn’t been recharging, so eventually it drained completely and now it couldn’t power anything.

This reminds me of the opening of this week’s portion of Beha’alosecho. We read about the mitzvah given to the Kohanim to light the Menorah each day in the temple. The purpose of the menorah was to shine light not just around the temple but outside the temple as well. In fact the windows of the temple were designed in such a way that the light of the inside shone outward (this is different than a typical house which is designed so that the light of the outside will shine inwards).

After the destruction of the temple, we each get to light our own Menorah in our own temple. The home that we build for ourselves and our loved ones is like our own temple. And just as the Kohen would light a menorah to bring light into the world, so too we light our own menorah – our job is to bring light and warmth to those around us. But there is a catch.

The menorah would only burn for twenty four hours and then it needed to be rekindled. Before rekindling it you need to add more oil. As it is with any oil lamp, as it is with a car battery, and any source of energy, in order for it to continue giving off energy and light, it needs to be refueled.  

So too it is with us as people. When we focus on sharing light and warmth with those around us, we need the regular fuel to keep us going. But from where do we get fuel? In the book of Proverbs we are told ‘Ki ner mitzvah v’Torah ohr’ – ‘A Mitzvah is a candle and the Torah is light’ The fuel that we can access that gives us the inspiration to share with others is Torah study and Mitzvah observance. When we stock up on our own fuel, than we can be a source of energy, light, warmth and inspiration to others and the best part is that our own resources will not be depleted.

And the good news is that unlike a car, our system is not limited to a specific type of gasoline. Different machines use different kinds of energy. All the different kinds of fuel, like gasoline, diesel, gas, oil, wax etc. are different kinds of energy which are used in various types of machines. But imagine a machine that can take and use any kind of energy? That’s us. Each mitzvah is a different type of energy, but any mitzvah will help to power us up. So go stock up on some energy so that it won’t get depleted. (If you need any suggestions or advice, please contact me, I’ll be happy to help).

May we each light up our own menorah and be a source of light and warmth for those around us.

Shabbat shalom