“You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lights regularly.” Exodus 27:20, Parashat Tetzaveh
Over the last few weeks, our Torah portions from the Book of Exodus have been filled with the instructions for the building of the Tabernacle (mishkan in Hebrew), the portable sanctuary where the Israelites worshiped God as they wandered through the Sinai and Negev Deserts, and the eastern side of the Jordan River before they entered the Land of Israel. These Torah portions read like architectural blueprints, specifying the sizes, colors, and materials to be used to build the mishkan. Only two elements of that original sanctuary remain in Jewish sanctuaries today—the ark where the Torah scrolls are housed and the Eternal Light (ner tamid in Hebrew).
The ner tamid which flickers above our ark at Beth Emet symbolizes the Divine presence in our midst. Today, we might not think much about how the ner tamid stays lit. As long as the electricity is on at Beth Emet and a bulb is changed every few years, our ner tamid is flickering. In contrast to this, the ner tamid in the mishkan had to be continually stoked morning and night to make sure it didn’t go out. In truth, our ner tamid at Beth Emet also needs tending. With the love, care, and devotion of so many, Beth Emet has been a vibrant and caring community that is always striving to illuminate the Divine presence in our world.
In our 72-year history at Beth Emet, Rabbi Peter and Elaine Knobel did so much to contribute to ensure our ner tamid at Beth Emet burned brightly. They dedicated themselves to serving our congregation with intelligence, passion, and love for our community, the Jewish people and our tradition. Rabbi Knobel served Beth Emet with distinction for 39 years before he died two and a half years ago, and Elaine was our effervescent, warm, and witty Rebbetzin for 42 years until her death just two days ago. Beth Emet would not be the vibrant beacon of light in our community without their devotion to our congregation for all these years.
Next week on Thursday during the funeral, we’ll have an opportunity to bid farewell to Elaine, celebrate her amazing life, and support her grieving family. When someone dies we say, “May their memory be a blessing (zichronam livracha).” We keep someone’s spirit alive by learning from and living by the values they taught us. May we honor the memory of the Knobels by ensuring that Beth Emet continues to be a beacon of caring and creativity that strives for justice and peace just like it was under their leadership.
I feel blessed to have had the Knobels as partners and friends in my life for so many years. I pray that they are enjoying each other’s company in the next world like they did when they were alive. Their love for each other, their family, and our community was truly exemplary. Their memory burns brightly in our midst. I miss them so much as I know we all do.
Rabbi Andrea London