by Vered Harris
Recently the 8th grade class from Heritage Hall came to Temple B’nai Israel as part of their “Explore Days.” These two days offer the students exposure to some of the diverse cultures that make up our city. In each of the three groups that visited our main sanctuary a student noted the abstract sculpture above our ark. The ark holds the Torah scroll, the sculpture above is a light fixture called the Eternal Light. Just about every Jewish sanctuary has an Eternal Light. The students asked if they all look the same. When we went into the second prayer space at the Temple, the chapel, the students were able to see a modern rendition of the same concept: a fixture that perpetually puts forth light and can take nearly any form. Eternal lights may look radically different from one another, but they share a common purpose.
The Eternal Light, of course, can be viewed as a metaphor applicable to every person regardless of where or if we pray: what do we put above even our most important stories; what do we regard as eternally guiding principles that enable us to see more clearly even when times are dark?
The Eternal Light (in Hebrew it is called a Ner Tamid) can be a reminder of that which is bigger than us: an external guide that provides comfort, perspective, and hope.
We move between communities with various teachings about guiding principles. Schools and sports teams may value opportunities for competition or cooperation; religions have different doctrines with teachings of how to interact with others; workplace cultures may highlight hierarchies, collaboration, integrity, a growth-mindset, or in less principled environments a profits-first agenda. The Rotary Four Way Test represents the guiding light of our Club:
- Is it the truth?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
When we put our principles into action we move towards making them an internalized guiding light. The more we act upon the Four Way Test, for instance, the more natural it becomes to us and the more it directs us towards doing good in the world. These test questions and the behavior they guide us towards become a source of light in our community. This is one way we can transform ourselves into lights that provide comfort, perspective, and hope to those around us.
In each area of our lives the Four Way Test reminds us to act upon principles for truth, justice, and community. This makes Rotary’s Four Way Test compatible with all groups that aim towards these values, including religions, workplaces, schools, and teams that strive to advance our society in a good light.