Israel Forever

For the week ending 6 March 2004 / 13 Adar I 5764

The National Symbol

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

Almost every country has its own national symbol. The Americans have their bald eagle, the British their lion, and the French "le Coq". Israels national symbol is the menorah.

The menorah, which was daily lit in the Mishkan sanctuary in the desert and in the Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem, symbolizes wisdom. Our Sages saw in the menorah, whose lighting is discussed at the opening of this weeks Torah portion, the channel for wisdom flowing from its Divine source to the Jewish people.

The olive oil that was used for lighting the menorah had to be of the purest quality possible. This was a signal to our people throughout the generations that the study of Torah, which is the only road to gaining the Divine wisdom channeled through that menorah, must remain unadulterated if it is to produce its sacred light a light for our people and a "light unto the nations".

This is an important lesson for Israeli government officials who have presumed the right to dictate to religious schools in Israel what their curriculum should include. In addition to the danger of polluting the pure oil of the menorah of our day, this intervention is an expression of ultimate chutzpa. Study after study has shown that the secular schools in Israel have a great deal to learn from the religious ones both in scholastic achievement and in behavior towards teachers and fellow students.

Let not those who have turned the countrys schools into blackboard jungles haughtily dictate to those schools where the menorah burns brightly as a beacon for Israel forever.

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