The menorah and the showbread table stood opposite each other in the outer chamber of the Tabernacle, and later of the Temple in Jerusalem: the menorah standing against the southern wall, and the table against the northern wall.

The menorah was kindled every afternoon, and remained lit throughout the night. The lights of the menorah symbolize the illumination provided by Torah and mitzvot: “For a mitzvah is a candle, and the Torah is light.”1 The spiritual illumination supplied by studying Torah and observing G‑d’s commandments lights up the darkest and coldest nights. As Isaiah said,2 “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth . . . and the L‑rd shall shine upon you.”Both our spiritual and physical needs are provided by G‑d, and both come to us via the Temple

Every Shabbat twelve loaves of bread were placed on the table, where they remained until the following Shabbat.3 Bread is the staff of life, and a metaphor for all forms of nourishment. Thus, the table symbolizes all our material needs.

The Temple serves as the portal to heaven. As Jacob said regarding the Temple Mount: “This is none other than the house of G‑d, and this is the gate of heaven.”4 This gateway serves a dual purpose: it is the path through which our prayers ascend to heaven, and it is the conduit through which we receive all beneficence which descends from Above. Both our spiritual and physical needs are provided by G‑d, and both come to us via the Temple: the spiritual needs are channeled through the menorah, and material largess through the table.

The biblical commentator Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir (Rashbam),5 explains that the menorah’s practical purpose was to provide light for the table. After all, the royal table needs to be illuminated by a royal candelabrum!

The message is quite clear. Our Torah and mitzvot must “illuminate” all our physical pursuits. We cannot relegate the spiritual to the synagogue, or to the hour or two of the day which we dedicate to Torah study, prayer and good deeds. Our connection with G‑d must be apparent even while involved in a business meeting, or when sitting down to eat.

A home whose “table” is illuminated by its “menorah” is truly worthy of being a sanctuary wherein G‑d willingly dwells.