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 menorah,
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 this mean?
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 reverse this.
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.