In the synagogue, right above the Holy Ark, stands the ner tamid, the “eternal flame.” Its name is derived from a verse in Exodus, where we read that an eternal flame was to burn on the golden menorah in the Holy Temple at all times.

Origins of the Ner Tamid

Although the origins of this custom have been lost, the anonymous work known as the Kol Bo (published in the late 15th century) records that it was a universal custom in his days. He writes that the reason for the light is to give honor to the Divine Presence that rests wherever a quorum of Jews gather to pray.

Modern Day Application

In days gone by, the ner tamid was an actual flame. In the modern era, however, using light bulbs or LED lighting has become ubiquitous and perfectly acceptable. (Note that many Chabad congregations are not particular to have a ner tamid.)