Driftwood Ner Tamid (Eternal Light)

by Avi Dolgin - Keeper of the Light

The Ner Tamid that sits above the old Aron Kodesh (as of Nov. 1997) is the first driftwood lamp I have ever made. It is also the last, though I kept collecting more driftwood for years always thinking that I`d make some more. This one was picked up on Vancouver Island in 1975. In 1976 our son Noam was born, and I rushed to create a flurry of objects for his room. This was the nightlight above his crib. It was cute, but the wires always looked messy.

Or Shalom (then known as Havurat Sim Shalom) was still in its early tenant phase. We had been renting space in the basement of Chalmers Church on 12th Ave - constantly setting up chairs and taking them down each Saturday, and storing our stuff in a closet down the hall. Emboldened by our growth we opted to rent a building of our own. Thus we moved into the rambling undermaintained old house on Douglas Crescent. Plaster, paint jobs and elbow grease gave us a home at last. The Aron Kodesh was moved against the east wall of the large living room.

As I stared at the Aron and the bare wall one Shabbat, I realized what was missing. Unknown to me, Daniel Siegel was realizing the same thing. But I beat him to it. The next day I took the clunky lamp out of Noam`s room, brought it to the davenning space, and realigned it so that the wires were hidden by the wainscotting and the concealed light glowed warmly. My driftwood was home!

We've moved several times since then. Each time I`ve climbed a ladder, sunk eyelets into the walls, and rehung the Ner Tamid so as to explore its natural shape and conceal its technical soul. After we got a new Aron Kodesh and new Ner Tamid on Fraser St., Frank took the older elements and arranged then on the south wall. Thanks, Frank. I also have named myself "keeper of the light" - fussing over the burnt -out bulbs all these years. Now if I could find a nice spiritual purpose for all the driftwood in my basement. . . .


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