NER TAMID (Heb. נֵר תָּמִיד; "eternal lamp"), a light which burns perpetually in front of the *ark in synagogues. It is usually placed in a receptacle suspended from the ceiling. The ner tamid consisted of a wick burning in olive oil and it was considered a meritorious deed and an honor to give donations for the upkeep of the ner tamid. Indeed, people who do so are specially mentioned in the *Mi she-Berakh prayer recited after the Torah reading in the synagogue on Sabbath mornings. In modern times, however, the ner tamid is an electrical bulb. The receptacle and the chains of the ner tamid are usually made of precious metal.
The institution of the ner tamid in the synagogue is a symbolic reminder of the *menorah which burned continually in the Temple (see Ex. 27:20; Lev. 24:2), as the synagogue is considered a spiritual replica of the Temple ("small sanctuary," Meg. 29a). Originally, therefore, the ner tamid was placed into a niche in the western wall of the synagogue in remembrance of the position of the menorah in the Temple. Later, however, it was suspended in front of the Ark. In many East European synagogues which were built of wood, the ner tamid was placed in special vaulted stone niches because of the possible danger of fire. The ner tamid has also been interpreted as being symbolic of God's presence amid Israel (Shab. 22b) or as the spiritual light which emanated from the Temple (Ex. R. 36:1).
Eisenstein, Dinim, 273–4; L. Yarden, Tree of Light (1971), index, s.v.Eternal Light.