This week's Torah portion begins with a mention of the menorah, the seven-branched lampstand in the Tabernacle. We were told back in Parashat Terumah (Exodus 25:31-40), that the menorah was hammered out of a single piece of pure gold. It has parts that are all described in botanical terms—petals, calyxes and blooms. Its central shaft is surrounded by six branches. It is a golden tree that blossoms with fire in the sanctuary of Israel.
What do we make of the detail that begins this week's reading? What is the significance of the fact that that the lamps on each of the branches shine in the direction of "the face"? According to Rashi, the great medieval commentator on the Torah, the word "face" in this verse refers to the middle shaft of the menorah. All of the lamps face the middle—that is, the light of each branch shines upon the center.
The effect must have been to create a tree with light from each branch reflecting from the shiny surface of the central shaft. To those who saw it, that brilliant, golden tree, with the light glowing from its center, must have been a reminder of that first moment when Moses heard God's voice coming from a bush lit at its center with eternal flames.
That is as close to an image of the Creator as Judaism will allow. At the center of all reality, there grows a living tree that is an absolute and pure unity. It is the place where beams of light from different sources combine. At the center, all differences disappear and all apparent contradictions are resolved in a single shaft of brilliant oneness.