A Refreshing Look at the Menorah
Rashi at the beginning of this week's sidrah explains why parshas
Beha'alosecha begins with Hashem commanding Aaron about the mitzvah
of lighting the Menorah:
When Aaron realized that neither he nor his tribe had been included in
the inauguration of the Mishkan [Tabernacle], he was disturbed that they
had been left out. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: I swear, your
portion is greater than theirs, for you have the mitzvah of cleaning out
and lighting the candles [of the Menorah].
The last section of parshas Naso contains a detailed description of the
offerings of the twelve tribal princes, from which Shevet Levi, the Tribe
of Aaron, is conspicuously absent. This is the source of Aaron's concern,
for which Hashem consoles him that the daily Menorah service is even
Why did Hashem console Aaron by reminding him about the Menorah
service? There were many daily services performed in the Mishkan, and
later in the Mikdash [Holy Temple], that were done only by the
Kohanim - the daily offering of two sheep, the incense service, the daily
meal offering - why didn't Hashem console Aaron with the mention of
these? It seems the source of Aaron's distress must have been the fact
that his tribe was excluded from the inauguration service, but if so why
would he be consoled by the mention of the Menorah, which was no
more inaugural than any of the other services?
In order to answer this question, says the holy Or HaChaim, let us first
examine exactly what the mitzvah of cleaning out and lighting the lamps
involved. The Gemara (Menachos 88b) quotes the opinion of Rav Sheishes
that although the Menorah was sculpted out of one piece of solid gold,
the lamps which held the oil were separate from the Menorah and were
removable. Every day, Aaron would remove the lamps from the
Menorah, clean them out with a sponge, refill them with oil and insert
their wicks, and replace them into the Menorah. According to R' Elazar,
the lamps were part of the Menorah itself. He says that in order to clean
the lamps, Aaron would bend the branches of the Menorah downwards
[the gold was sculpted thinly in order to facilitate this], and then
reshape the Menorah by bending them back up.
The Or HaChaim then says an amazing thing:
Had I been there, I would have proved from the Torah that Rav Sheishes was
How so? When the Torah describes the construction of the Menorah, it
makes no mention of the fact that all the lamps had to tilt towards the
middle branch. It is only mentioned here, after the Menorah was already
built. If the lamps were part of the Menorah proper, shouldn't the
instructions to bend the outer branches towards the middle branch have
been found in the Menorah's construction, and not here after the fact?
This can only be understood if we assume the lamps were separate.
Also, when the Torah describes how the various vessels were packed up
for transportation when they would travel in the desert, it says, "And
they [the Levi'im] shall take a garment of turquoise wool, and cover the
Menorah, and its lamps, and its tongs, and its scoops, and all the vessels
of its oil..." If the lamps were part of the Menorah itself, there would be
no need for the Torah to mention them separately!
This, then, explains Hashem's answer: While the Tribal princes had but
one opportunity to inaugurate the Mishkan, you, Aaron, will do so every
day of your life! For the mitzvah of lighting the lamps involves
dismantling and reassembling the Menorah - which means that Aaron rebuilt
the Menorah each and every day. With each lighting of the lamps, Aaron was
really performing his very own inauguration service.
Even according to R' Elazar, since the Menorah was completely deformed
when its branches were bent downwards, by reshaping the Menorah,
Aaron was in fact rebuilding it from scratch. Even according to his
opinion, we can understand how the lighting of the lamps was in fact
Aaron's personal daily inauguration.
Perhaps his words can help shed light on a perplexing comment of Rashi.
After describing Aaron's mitzvah to light the lamps, the Torah adds,
"Aaron did so - he lit the lamps [facing] toward the middle branch. (8:3)"
This teaches us the praise of Aaron, she-lo shinah - he never did
Is this the best the Torah can do to sing the praises of Aaron, by telling
us that he never did differently - that he did things just like Hashem told
him to? While we certainly don't consider ourselves Aarons, one hopes
we too would be capable of performing a relatively simple service just
the way Hashem told us to.
By having the Menorah constructed in such a manner as to require its
daily refabrication, Hashem was doing more than consoling Aaron. He
was also teaching him what true enthusiasm for a mitzvah is. Just like
today's Menorah was never the same as yesterday's - it was always in a
sense brand new - so too we must approach each mitzvah as if it were
0the first time we ever had the chance to do it; as if we had just received
the commandment from Hashem!
"Aaron did so," means that Aaron internalized the Menorah's construction.
He approached his mitzvah with the freshness and vigour of something
being done for the first time. This teaches us the praise of Aaron, says
Rashi, she-lo shinah - the Hebrew word shanah also means to repeat or
review (karah ve-shanah - he read and reviewed it). Aaron's service was
never a mere repetition of yesterday's. It was never "ho-hum, let's light
the Menorah again." Like the Menorah, which required daily inauguration,
Aaron's enthusiasm towards his job never waned.
While the concept is simple enough, it is deceptively difficult to retain a
fresh and energetic attitude toward our mitzvos, especially those we
perform daily. Contrast the feelings with which we approach uncommon
mitzvos such as sitting in the sukkah or the Pesach seder with the way we
feel when performing the "humdrum" mitzvos we do every day like birkas
ha-mazon, tefilah, or putting on tefillin; it's all too easy to let our
observance become a matter of rote and repetition. The only way to
preserve a childlike enthusiasm towards our mitzvos is through constant
Torah study, which always gives us new insights and perspectives into
the beauty of the mitzvos we perform.
Have a Good Shabbos.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann and Torah.org