Light Up Your Life – Beha’alotcha
Had this heading said Tel Aviv-Rome-Tel Aviv, you’d have thought it was an itinerary, and today’s topic is about flight destinations, European design or whatnot. But no. Today’s topic is all about the Menorah and the light radiating from it. The Menorah, whose home was in the Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem, was exiled to Rome, but the day will come when it will return to its eternal place in the holy city of Jerusalem. A solid piece of gold, from its golden base to its golden branches to its golden flowers, burning with the pure olive oil poured by the High Priest. But until that day that we all longingly await, the Menorah also serves as the symbol of the Jewish State revived in Israel seventy years ago.
Among the 450 proposed designs, the committee charged with selecting the ‘state seal’ back in 1949 latched onto the Shamir brothers’ proposal to use the Menorah as the symbol of our nation’s character. The actual design copied the engraving in the Titus Gate which depicts Roman soldiers leading Jewish exiles into Rome following the Roman victory over Judah and the destruction of the Second Temple, brandishing the golden Menorah. The inspiration of this seal was symbolizing the return of the Menorah – and the Jews – to their homeland.
The parshah opens with the commandment, “And when you light the candles facing the Menorah they will shine” (Bamidbar 8:2). “And this is the work of the Menorah…solid gold from the shaft until its flowers (8:2).
Whenever the Torah employs the word ‘this,’ it indicates something tangible that one can point to and say, “This is it.” Indeed, Hashem drew the form of the Menorah in the heavens and showed it to Moshe Rabbeinu saying, “This is the Menorah.”
It could be said that of all the holy vessels of the Mishkan, the Menorah was most significant. The Menorah is eternal, containing indescribable shining matter and spirit, and serves as a powerful Jewish symbol throughout the generations. Perhaps this is also the reason that Moshe Rabbeinu encountered difficulty grasping its design and appearance until Hashem showed him precisely how it looked. The verse says, ‘So he made the Menorah,’ yet doesn’t reveal who or how, yet the Sages in the Midrash Aggadah teach that it was Hashem Himself who imbued in the Menorah potential to fashion itself. Only the Master of the World was able to infuse true spirit into that golden matter and fashion an inanimate metal into an exquisite vessel encompassing something as spiritual as light.
The Air is Electric!
Lighting in a house, park, garden or public area adds magic to an atmosphere, turning the air itself electric as it spills light unto the world… I’ve been to many homes where, due to a tight budget, the only light in the house is provided by naked bulbs hanging on strings or barebones, energy-saving fixtures that don’t foster that special atmosphere that the homeowner would love to create. When designing a room, I believe that it’s important to carefully plan the lighting and/or even consult with a lighting expert in order to reach optimal result.
Guy Friedman is a lighting expert with whom I’ve worked in close cooperation for many years, and he’s one of my favorite partners in the job. Every consultation, meeting and phone call is a pleasure, and over the years, he’s taught me many valuable lessons about lighting. So here’s my opportunity to “shine the spotlight” on Guy and tell him, “Thank you!”
There are various factors to account for in order to reach optimal lighting conditions, and these, naturally, vary from project to project, and even room to room. Here are some of the most important definitions that apply across the board:
1. General lighting simply illuminates a room.
photo: ליאור מלכה
2. Technical lighting illuminates a specific place with a distinct purpose.
photo: Aviva Loberbaum
3. Atmosphere lighting beauties and adds ambiance. This includes the actual fixture and type of light emerging from it. Generally, atmosphere lighting is soft and pleasant, if less functional.
photo: Meitav Imas
The first step is defining the purpose of the illumination in a room in order to choose the one that will take precedence. I highly recommend integrating all three forms of lighting in any room in order to create the perfect look and feel, but the proportions vary based on the particular space. How can you know how much of each type of lighting to choose?
The way to figure this out is by considering what purpose the space serves? What occurs in this space? It’s important to note that all three types of light do not necessarily have to, not should they, be on at once. The lights on at the time should reflect the need and ambiance of the moment.
All types of light- Adesign: אלה צייחר photo: איתי בנית
For example, the primary focus in a kitchen is general lighting provided by a ceiling fixture or hidden lighting above the kitchen cabinets (T5) that flood the kitchen with illumination. Technical lighting includes LED lights positioned discreetly beneath the top cabinets to illuminate working surfaces, Spot lights & cabinrt lighting. (Caution: For the Shabbat observant, make sure you switch off the automatic mechanism that turns the light on as soon as the cabinet is opened before Shabbat!)
hidden lighting above the kitchen cabinets + spot lights. Design: Aviva Loberbaum photo: Meitav Imas
In the living room the focus is on atmosphere and general lighting, since the living room is a place where we want to relax pleasantly and host company in comfortable lighting conditions. Technical lighting in the living room is reserved for specific activities like reading. In the living room, general lighting is usually attached to the ceiling, and I advise attaching a dimmer mechanism that allows you to dim the lights to your choice intensity and convert general lighting into atmosphere lighting. Freestanding lamps and desk lamps likewise add character to a room, as well.
design: מיטל סולמון ודנה יוסף photo: אסף פינצ’וק
A hanging fixture in the dining room, over a round or square kitchen table, or even over an island adds beauty and character. In other places, hanging fixtures frequently get in the way, but they’re perfect when positioned over a table or permanent furniture. In some cases, two or three fixtures can be integrated into a single room, and they needn’t necessarily be identical.
In the bedroom, atmosphere is the name of the game!
The most suitable lighting in a bedroom uses wall fixtures, or desk lamps which become ornaments in the room.
In some cases, a hanging fixture can be integrated into the theme to function dually as general and technical lighting and facilitate reading, although many people prefer special reading lamps that can be adjusted at will.
Another tip that I’m glad to share today regards spotlights that can be installed in any sheetrock ceiling. Spotlights function dually as general lighting, flooding a room with light, and also technical lighting that illuminates a particular area or focus in the room. In any event, it’s important to bear in mind that a house is not a disco; there shouldn’t be an overabundance of spotlights in the ceiling, and spotlights should exude a soft light that won’t blind the people sitting beneath them.
As far as answering the question that arises innumerable times: Which kind of bulb to use? The answer, of course, varies according to the specific use. As a general statement, I’ll carefully state that LED lights are both long-lasting and energy efficient, in addition to being pleasant to the eye.
One last tip for all my Shabbat-observant clients: I highly recommend planning an electric route in the house that will stay on during Shabbat and won’t turn off with the Shabbat clock. Most crucial is a light in the bathroom that should stay on from the beginning until the end of Shabbat. Next on the list is a light in the kitchen, one in the hall and on a staircase, if there is one. Lights that stay on 26 hours straight should be energy-efficient and not too strong that they’ll blind someone who wakes up in the middle of the night for a drink or to use the bathroom…After all, nobody wants to be startled awake from their dreams with a blinding flash of light!
So in the meanwhile, continue dreaming your sweet dreams, and don’t forget to take the light in your house seriously and set aside the necessary budget to cover it. Because after all you’ve invested in building and designing your home, you’ll want to light it up!