HASHEM said to Moshe saying, “Speak to Aaron and say to him: When you kindle the lamps, toward the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps cast light.” And Aaron did so… (Bamidbar 8:1-2)
And Aaron did so…. he kindled the lamps, as HASHEM had commanded Moshe. (Bamidbar 8:3)
What’s the big accomplishment of lighting a Menorah? Anybody can do that! That’s exactly it! Anybody can do it and we do it daily!
There is a statement of the sages, “One who is accustomed with a candle will have children who are Talmud Scholars”. (This refers to the candles of Shabbos and of Chanukah…Rashi). The Maharal explains this to mean, “One who is accustomed to looking at the whole world as a candle…” How do we look at the whole world like a candle.”?
The components of a basic candle are the oil, the wick, and the vessel. The oil is the energy source that requires continuous replenishment where as the other two may be fixed cost investments, so to speak. As the Mitzvah candle of Shabbos or Chanukah burn down and the flames are dancing their last we might be tempted to ask ourselves, “What has been gained or what is accomplished through this exercise of lighting? The good oil is gone the money is spent but what actually remains?”
Another application is when we apply precious time and money to Mitzvos like Jewish Education or charity, or eating on Shabbos. It’s worth knowing that long after the classes are over or the money is spent something greater remains. It was not expenditure, but rather an investment! How so?
In a panel discussion a question was asked by someone newly introduced to the world of the Talmud, “How can one ever possibly hope to learn all those huge tomes and its supplementary volumes?” Acknowledging that it is a daunting task in the spirit of the Mishne in Pirke Avos, “It is not our job to complete it but neither are we exempt from trying…” one of the rabbis offered a bizarre scenario.
“Consider a baby newly born into the world and suckling with great effort for a few drops of his mother’s milk before falling into a deep sleep. What if this child would be granted adult consciousness and before him would be placed all the food he would eat in his lifetime; All the mountains of potatoes and grains, lakes of drinks, train loads of meat, and fields of fruits and vegetables. The child would take one look and faint saying, “How can I ever eat all this in my lifetime?”
The Rabbi explained that his feeling of intimidation is based upon a false premise. He assumes that he will continue to eat at the same pace and in the way he approaches food now. He fails to realize that his appetite and ability to consume mass quantities will increase dramatically over the years and soon he may even need to diet so as not to consume his allotted amounted before his time is up. So it is with learning Torah. As one’s language skills and knowledge base increases so does one’s desire and capacity.
In a similar vein, I once heard the following brutally frank question presented by a clever person; “What benefit is there to eating all those storehouses of food if so little actually remains on the body?” Let’s say one enters the world 7 pounds and after 70 years of eating tens of tons of food stuffs one exits life 197 pounds, what was the value of all that eating if one, in the end, added a net 190 pounds that is fed to back to the earth?
The Maharal answers from the verse “The candle is a Mitzvah and Torah is light…” (Proverbs) Living Torah life produces light! Light, the Maharal explains travels forever! It never tires and stops! We are like nuclear power plants taking raw material and revealing the light embedded within through blessings and proper intentions. We produce light!
That light comes back us at the time when our bodies are revived by the “dew of Torah”. We became aware in the 20th century how much energy is packed into the smallest particles. Imagine what we become when all that production from all that consumption returns home in the form of oceans of the most sublime light!