Kindling the Menorah: Lighting up
Every morning and evening, Aharon and his children were to tend to the
lighting of the Menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum in the Sanctuary.
This process included cleaning the oil cups, replacing old wicks and
refilling the cups with the requisite quantity of oil (Exodus 27:20).
There is great depth to the symbolism of kindling the lights of the
The prefix Atah Tetzaveh, "you shall command" to the precept of lighting
the menorah comes to underscore how the general process of mitzvah
performance is itself synonymous with kindling these lights. What does
Obviously, G-d has no need for the light of the Menorah lamps. What lies
within this commandment is His demand that man mirrors His
original "light". In the memorable words of the Midrash, the Creator asked
His chosen ones "Just as I have kindled your light, so too, should you
kindle a light for Me." (Shemos Rabbah 36:2).
The "light" which G-d eternally kindles is man's "soul".
And the manner in how a human being can, so-to-speak, repay back this
light it to dedicate his whole existence to kindling a light for G-d. The
way to achieve this is through shemiras hamitzvos, mitzvah observance
insofar as "A mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light" (Misheli 6:23 ).
In our world of darkness, G-d is concealed. The primeval "light" and the
spiritual realm are hidden. And yet, it is up to the Jewish people, to
They can achieve this by "lighting up".
Their mitzvah observance is what "lights up the world". And it is the
power of His word, where engraved upon their very being, their
eternal "soul", that is the roaring flame for kindling lives.
Fulfilling the dictates of the Torah "fires" the individual's enthusiasm
and lifelong commitment. It is this which radically transforms every
individual Jew into a mitzvah.
Yes, the Jew himself "becomes" a mitzvah .
This is because he, like the precept, becomes the "command" of His
Creator. He is the one to illuminate the "light of Torah" through the
radiance of his "mitzvah lamp". All the spiritual potency and energy
originates by virtue of the fact that the mitzvah is divine. And he is
akin to the "lamp" which is to carry the "light" into this world.
This ignites every one of his 248 limbs and 365 sinews, converting them
into vessels which reflect – exactly – the divine will in the 248 positive
commandments and 365 negative commandments that are meant to be fulfilled.
Furthermore, it is responsible for purifying and sanctifying the person
into a more G-dly vessel.
It is the Jew who is to kindle the lights. It is not just the lamps of the
menorah that were lit in the Sanctuary. It is the person himself whose
soul is kindled. It is the component of the "command" that is the primary
factor. His "light" and existence is determined by the extent through
which he relates to G-d.
The inspiration of mitzvah performance – and how much it is made part of
man's being – that turns him, into the perfect vessel to reflect the
divine light such that, like the lights of the Menorah lit by Aharon and
his children, it shines outwards. And the illumination of the "light" of
the divine glory is a factor of the Jew's commitment to G-d and how it is
majestically revealed into this world.
Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene and Torah.org.