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Friday, 5 June, 2015 - 7:45 am






Vice President Joe Biden suffered a tragedy this past week. His son, Beau, 46, passed away from cancer. He had been battling the terrible disease for years.


This is not the first tragedy suffered by this family. In 1972, a week after Biden was elected from Delaware to the United States Senate, his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash while out shopping. His sons, including Beau, were also hospitalized in very bad shape. It was not clear whether they would survive without brain damage.


Joe Biden, at 29 years old, just starting out in his political career, would not leave them. He was focused on the boys, who were all he had left. He ended up taking the oath of office at the side of Beau’s hospital bed.


And he did not leave them since. In the decades after, Biden would commute by train between Washington, DC, and Wilmington, Delaware. He preferred the daily four-hour commute for over 37 years, rather than the convenience of living in Washington. He did so to be able to kiss his sons goodnight, and then again in the morning. He recalled how, when thinking of his young boys, he realized that a child can hold an important thought to share with mom and dad, but only for 12 to 24 hours. After that, it is gone.


His children, like all children, needed him every single day.


In a highly emotionally-charged speech a few years ago, Joe Biden disclosed another side about his children. He said, “Truth be told, the real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me. My bond with my sons was my ‘redemption.’” He went on to explain his constant weight of grief: “Just when you think, ‘Maybe I’m going to make it,’ you’re riding down the road and you pass a field and you see a flower, and it reminds you. Or you hear a tune on the radio. Or you just look up in the night. You know, you think, ‘Maybe I’m not going to make it, man.’ Because you feel at that moment the (sad) way you felt the day you got the news.”


Biden said that, eventually, a person makes room for other things, too. “There will come a day – I promise you, and your parents as well – when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen.”


Joe Biden buried another loved one this week. He will be looking for added strength to keep his mind, and the rest of his family, together.


Politicians have uncomplimentary reputations, Joe Biden included. Yet when it comes to being there for his family, while dealing with his own grief, there is no greater compliment to Biden than how he kept things together. Despite his public servant persona, he sacrificed personal comfort, understanding his importance to his surviving children, and their importance to him. He has opened the eyes of many to the importance of a unified and, therefore, powerful base.


The concept of a unifying base explains several peculiarities appearing at the onset of this week’s Torah portion, “B’ha-aloscha. This portion concludes the story of the previous portion, regarding the inauguration of the “Mishkan,” the traveling Sanctuary in the desert.


The importance of this temporary House of G-d is underscored by each of the twelve tribes’ donating gifts and offerings to it. Each tribe had its own day for twelve consecutive days. The tribe of Levi, however, which includes Levites and Kohanim (Priests), was not part of this ceremony. They would be directly involved every day, not merely during its inauguration.


As this week’s portion unfolds, the Almighty tells Moses: “Speak to Aaron and say to him: ‘When you fire up the lamps (of the Menorah, the candelabrum), the (wicks of the) seven lamps should cast their light towards the center of the candelabrum.’ Aaron did so… as G-d had commanded him. This is the construction method of the candelabrum: It is a hammered work of (a single piece of) gold, hammered from its base to its flowers (on its top).” (Bamidbar (Numbers) 8:2-4.)


The Talmudic Sages explain that these verses were communicated to Aaron as a compensation. Aaron was concerned about his tribe’s non-involvement in the inauguration. Aaron was told that his contribution of twice-daily service in kindling the Menorah was even greater than the contribution of the other tribes.


The daily service in the Temple included the offering of animals on the altar, as well as twice-daily incense on the incense altar. Why is kindling the candelabrum singled out? Moreover, why provide the instructions for its construction, when they already appear elsewhere? Another point: Why is it necessary for all the lamps to face the center?


It is because of the unity and its powerful base. The Menorah was, indeed, constructed from a single piece of gold. It had a middle stem, upon which was the middle lamp. It also had six stems, three on each side, upon which were the other six lamps. Looking at the Menorah, one easily noticed the middle stem maintaining the singular piece of gold. It was not as apparent when looking at the other six stems.


By having all the lamps face the middle stem, the attention was on the candelabrum as a single unit. In other words, each time it was lit, it was another reconstruction of the candelabrum, since it emphasized its unique feature: one piece of gold. No other unit in the Temple was constructed from a single piece.


The purpose of the Menorah was to spread light. Its seven branches and lamps, all facing the middle stem, represented various types of people. For light to shine properly, however, a total unity must be achieved. And so, its base was a single block of gold, which then split into distinct branches. Kindling the lamps as they all faced the middle pointed out, each day, how all were unified despite minor variations. That is light.


The instructions for kindling the Menorah were given to Aaron, a man of love and peace. Aaron sacrificed his own preferences and feelings for the cause of unity. He, together with his tribe, was not included in the inaugurations festivities. The unifying presence of Aaron was, by far, greater than any personal satisfaction.


Joe Biden has had his share of tragedies, out of which he has shined. May everyone have the opportunity to experience shinning unity and power only with good health and many blessings.



SUMMARY: The power of unity is like the Menorah: a unified beginning, a diversified middle, and a unified ending.



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