By Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari
When Aharon saw that all the princes brought sacrifices, except those of
the tribe of Levi, his mind was weakened. Their sacrifices were accepted
even though they were brought spontaneously and as a result of an
outpouring of religious ecstasy, rather than of a command. He, being the
essence of the mind, felt that perhaps, he and his tribe of Levi had not
been forgiven for the sin of the Golden Calf, which was an error of the
mind. Hashem told him his contribution was greater than that of the
princes. Their contribution, together with all the other sacrifices would
cease when the Temple was destroyed, whereas his lighting of the menorah
would continue even after the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash and even
into the Galut. This midrash (Devarim Rabba, 15) is problematic since we
know that the service of the Menorah ceased together with the rest of the
temple service. Nachmanides, explains that the promise of G-d referred to
the lighting of the candles of Hanukkah.
There is a halakhic explanation as to why the Menorah and the sacrifices
could not continue after the destruction of the Temple. The sacrifices,
including the incense, were totally the service of the Cohanim alone. So
too, the arranging of the Menorah, the oil and the wicks are considered to
be defined as the work of the priest and forbidden to non-priests.
Therefore they could not be continued without the Bet Hamikdash or in the
Galut. However, the actual lighting of the Menorah was not considered to
be a priestly service and so, was halakhically permitted to anyone. From
this we can learn that lighting the menorah and later the candles of
Hanukkah, were not restricted to the Temple as were the sacrifices and the
other avodot of the Cohanim. Therefore they could be continued even in
There is, however, a spiritual connotation to the actual lights of the
Menorah that distinguishes them from the sacrifices, and makes it possible
to be performed even in the exile. The lights were the symbol of the
religiosity and spirituality that grow from below [earthly] to the upper
levels [in heaven] above. Rashi comments that the lights of the menorah
were turned upward. Therefore they represent a worshipping that brings
forth the human expression of ecstasy, whereby people's eyes see upward.
This is the work of the Levites through song and prayer, both of which are
open and public expressions, and therefore could be continued in the
Exile. The worship of the priests, however, was hidden as it was performed
within the walls of the Temple and in areas where strangers could not
come. The high priest on Yom Kippur went unaccompanied into the very most
recesses of the Kodesh HaHedoshim, the Holy of Holies; as we read, “That
which is performed in secret, comes to atone for the sin [of lashon harah]
committed in secret” (Yoma, 44a). Jerusalem, the site of the Temple, is
surrounded by hills, another expression of the hidden nature of the Temple
service. This worship is meant to bring spirituality down from heaven, to
the world below and could only be performed within the confines of the Bet
HaMikdash. It is true that the korbanot of the princes were the expression
of their spontaneity and ecstasy, and should therefore have been possible
outside of the Temple. However, they and the incense that are symbols of
spirituality, were an integral part of the priestly service that limited
them to the Bet HaMikdash. The lights of Hanukah, which were the service
of the Hasmonean priests, were a reward for their voluntary actions and
outpouring of dedication to HaShem. This continued the service of the
Levites and therefore could exist even in the Galut.
These differences between the avodah of the Cohanim and that of the
Levities, relate to the spiritual differences between Eretz Yisrael and
all the countries of the Galut. Galut is rooted in ‘gilui’ that is
something uncovered and public. This makes possible the ecstatic worship
from below, that urges one upward to Heaven. So there is a role for the
lights even in Galut. However, just as the public domain, reshut Harabbim,
halakhically can only serve to acquire ownership up to 10 tefachim, hands
breadths high, so too we limit the types of worship that apply to the
Golah. These countries have a ‘tumah’, impurity, which seeks to attach
itself to the purity of Divine worship. In contrast, Eretz Yisrael has a
sanctity that does not permit evil and impurity to attach them selves to
our Divine worship. It is a land that, “the eyes of the Lord are on, from
the beginning of the year till the end of the year”. Avraham leaves his
birthplace because there the Tumah of the Galut can attach itself to him.
Even in Eretz Yisrael, he announces to ‘Bnei Chet’, that he is a stranger
and a sojourner, so that the tumah of the Canaanites should not have a
connection to him and attach them selves to his worship. Therefore, the
hidden worship like that of the Kohanim, that seeks to bring down blessing
from on High, has no place outside the confines of Eretz Yisrael.
Shem Mi Shmuel, Beha’alotcha 5670, 5675.
To understand the problem of Israel’s mourning for meat, we should see the
explanation of the Baal Shem Tov to Tehillim, 47:15; “He will guide us
eternally” He comments that when a father teaches his child to walk, he
does so by continuously drawing back from the child thus encouraging the
child to follow him. This withdrawal of the father is thus for the benefit
of the child.
This is what Hashem did for us in the desert. There, Israel were
vouchsafed a great revelation of G-d’s presence, enjoyed spiritual food
[Mannah] and they were not required to do any material actions. However,
that was not the purpose of Creation. The soul even before coming down to
Earth lacked nothing, so the purpose of the whole Creation was that the
material things of this world should, through the actions of Mankind, be
used in the worship of G-d. So the Divine plan was that they should enter
Eretz Yisrael, plough, sow and reap [as well as all the other material
actions] needed for their existence, and would still see the service of
Hashem as the end purpose.
Now that were drawing near to enter the Land [without the
incident of the spies, they would enter within 3 days], Hashem began the
process of gradual withdrawal, so that they would become accustomed to
making the material holy. The Aron HaBrit now was no longer in their midst
as they traveled as it had been till now, rather it traveled before them.
Now they would have to draw closer to Hashem, through their own efforts.
However, they fell slightly from their elevated spiritual position and did
not trust themselves to be able to do this, so they were as complainers.
They did understand that they would be helped to do this from heaven. Shem
Elsewhere  he explains that the food of each land has special
spiritual strengths that are a reflection of the moral and religious level
of that country. When they left Egypt they took with them the bread of
affliction that had of the tumah and immorality of Egypt, then they ate it
together with heavenly food, Mannah, until they were acclimatized to the
new spiritual level. In the same way they wanted now to eat Mannah
together with the earthy and material food of Eretz Yisrael, until they
became accustomed to achieving kedusha through their material actions. It
was only when that spiritual desire became perverted to lust for
meat, vayithavu, that they sinned and Moshe was angry with them.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Torah.org.
r. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.