This week’s Torah portion begins with the mitzvah of kindling the menorah in the Tabernacle (and eventually, the Holy Temple) every afternoon.

Light is a metaphor for the Torah, which sheds light in a world of darkness, illuminating it with G‑dly wisdom. In a world where the divine truth is concealed, the Torah is a beacon of light which illuminates the path to a spiritual, meaningful and fulfilling life.

The menorah is also a symbol of Jewish unity. Every Jewish soul is unique, possessing a distinctive nature and temperament. This is because each individual soul emanates from a unique combination of G‑d’s seven attributes: kindness, discipline, harmony, perseverance, humility, attachment and royalty. The seven branches of the golden menorah symbolize the idea that, although we may express ourselves differently and possess different dispositions, we all share the same essence, an essence of pure gold. In fact, the menorah wasn’t a combination of parts which were screwed—or even welded—together; rather, it was a single golden slab which was hammered into the shape of a menorah. Not only are we all of the same substance, but we are actually a part of a single non-composite entity, one large menorah.

Why is the menorah, a metaphor for the Torah, also the symbol of Jewish unity?Why is the menorah, a metaphor for the Torah, also the symbol of Jewish unity? There were many vessels in the Tabernacle; why, of all of them, was the menorah chosen to depict the oneness of our nation? And if one were to argue that Jewish unity is contingent upon our adherence to the Torah, this too can be questioned: are we not intrinsically brothers and sisters, members of one nation? Why is our unity dependent on the Torah?

A similar question can be asked with regards to our relationship with G‑d. The Zohar states that “three knots connect to each other: the Holy One, blessed be He; the Torah; and [the people of] Israel.” This is to say that through connecting to the Torah, the Jew connects to G‑d. This is puzzling, for in fact the bond between the Jew and the Creator precedes the existence of the Torah. This is evidenced by the fact that the Torah is replete with phrases such as “Speak to the children of Israel,” “Command the children of Israel,” etc. Obviously, the Torah was written as a guidebook for the Jewish nation, which conceptually existed before the Torah. Why, then, is it necessary for the Jew to connect to G‑d through the Torah, if we enjoyed a relationship with Him before the Torah was even conceptualized?!

The chassidic masters explain that though the Jewish soul always enjoyed an intimate relationship with G‑d, this relationship is concealed when the soul descends into the human body. Instead of yearning to develop the soul’s relationship with G‑d, the person is naturally consumed by the pursuit of materialism. Just as it is impossible to tune in to an AM broadcast with an FM radio, so too the spiritual voice of the soul cannot be heard by one who is tuned in only to materialistic radio waves. The Torah, which as mentioned above is likened to light, exposes the soul and its G‑dly nature. A person who studies Torah becomes aware of the triviality of physical pursuits; becomes involved in a holy, spiritual world; and reveals his soul and connects to it. Studying Torah doesn’t create a connection with G‑d; it merely removes the layers which have obscured it.

The same can be said regarding Jewish unity. True love for another Jew can be felt only by one who is in tune with his soul. As Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi writes:1 “The [souls] all have one Father, and it is on account of this common root in the One G‑d that all of Israel are called ‘brothers’—in the full sense of the word. Only the bodies are distinct from each other. Therefore, there can be no true love and fraternity between those who regard their bodies as primary and their souls secondary, but only a love based on an external factor.”

The lesson of the menorah is that true Jewish unity, a unity which stems from the soul, is a result of the illumination provided by the study of Torah.