Let's Step Up To The Plate
This week's Torah portion begins with the mitzvah that Aharon was given in
the Mishkan, to prepare and kindle the Menorah. The word "be'haaloshcha,"
meaning "when you bring up the lights," requires clarification. What was
Aharon commanded to bring up? Rashi in his commentary brings two seemingly
divergent interpretations. Rashi tells us that Aharon was instructed to hold
the flame near the wick he was kindling until the flame was fully ignited
and was burning brightly. In his second interpretation, Rashi tells us that
the expression "when you bring up" is referring not to the flame but to
Aharons's ascent in performing the act of kindling. He was to ascend a
platform that was positioned before the Menorah and was thus able to easily
reach each of the lights as he kindled them.
These two interpretations of "be'haalosacha" do not seem to go hand in hand.
First Rashi tells us that the 'going up' refers to the flame, whereby Aharon
was to ensure that the flame itself is fully developed before he turned
away. The second interpretation however, tells us that the focus is Aharon's
The commentaries explain that in essence, the two interpretations complement
one another. The flame of the Menorah symbolizes the light of Hashem's
presence in the world that is reflected in His Torah and Mitzvos. Aharon's
responsibility, like that of every father, was to be a lamp lighter; to
ignite the flame of love, devotion and passion for Torah and Mitzvos in the
hearts of the Jewish people. Yet this task can only be accomplished when he
himself serves as the ultimate role model; when he himself is ascending and
in growth mode.
How effective could he be in inspiring the hearts of others with the light
of Torah if he himself is not in the process of spiritual ascent!
This theme is echoed in the fascinating Haftorah that we read last week, in
which the parents of the future savior of the Jewish people, Shimshon, were
instructed in how to raise him in holiness as a nazir. Although the angel
had given specific instructions to Shimshon's mother, his father, Manoach,
was nevertheless perplexed and prayed that the angel should return to teach
the parents precisely how to bring up the child. The angel reappears and
once again instructs them with the laws of nezirus, saying "everything that
I commanded her, you shall guard".
The commentaries are perplexed as to why it was necessary for Manoach to
beseech Hashem that the angels return. Surely the instructions regarding how
they should rear their son as a nazir were explicit and absolutely clear the
first time around. The commentaries explain that they were asking for
guidance in how to raise their newborn infant with the goal of imbue in him
such a lofty level of holiness. Perhaps, they too, needed to achieve a
higher level of sanctity.
The angel confirmed their reasoning, saying that Manoach, too, should assume
the nazarite vow in order to make sure that the child would see his father
practice what he preached. Only then would the father be successful in
imparting to his child the sacred values that himself espoused.
In our own lives, it is pointless to try to instill values in our children
that we ourselves make no attempt to practice. We too, must be in constant
growth mode, for our children's finely attuned antennas will quickly grasp
if we are operating a double standard-prodding them to achieve what we
ourselves fail to strive for. Rather we much teach them in the most potent
way possible - by our own example. Only then can we hope to reap the nachas
of seeing them fulfill - and even exceed - our highest expectations.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos.
Rabbi Naftali Reich
Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.
Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum Education Center.