"You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives, for kindling lamps regularly" Exodus 27:20
We all need light in our lives. Light to illumine our path. Light to help us find our way when we are lost.
The light of the ner tamid (the everlasting lamp) was not in its present elevated position in ancient times. In the beginning, it was in a secondary niche (the sidrah simply contains the instruction to place it "outside" the ark curtain).
It graduated to prime position above the ark. The mishkan (tabernacle) in the wilderness never knew it. Solomon's Temple never knew it. The Second Temple never knew it. Yet from the early days of the synagogue, it came to symbolise the presence of God in the midst of the people.
Proverbs tells us "The Light of God is the soul of Man", making an inextricable link between human life and light. There are times when we feel that the light has all but gone out. The light above the ark comforts us, "God is here. You are not alone."
Where there is light there is hope. Rabbi Marcia Plumb's evocative poem "While Receiving Chemotherapy", which appears in the recently published Really Useful Prayers (edited by Jonathan Romain, Movement for Reform Judaism) concludes: "May the ancient spirit of the angels Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael bring me a sense of Your presence, strength, a light at the end of the tunnel, healing and hope."