Shiur provided courtesy of Naaleh.com
Adapted by Channie Koplowitz Stein
Aharon received the instructions on lighting the Menorah from Hashem through Moshe. Then the Torah tells us that “Aharon did so/vayas kein… as Hashem had commanded Moshe.” We would have expected Aharon to follow these instructions. Why does the usually terse Torah go out of its way to point this out? After all, these instructions for lighting the Menorah were not overly difficult to follow. And in that case, how does Rashi see in this added phrase high praise for Aharon?
The Oshover Rebbe explains in Be’er Moshe that the light emanating from the Menorah was more that a technical, physical light. It was the basis for igniting the spiritual flame within Bnei Yisroel for their service to Hashem Yisborach. Rabbi Rivlin explains the connection as one going back to creation. Each time Hashem uttered that something should come into existence, the Torah then verifies that it came about, “Veyehi khein/and so it was.” The only exception is the creation of light. Hashem said, “Let there be light,” and the Torah testifies, “And there was light,” not, “And so it was.”
What the Torah is alluding to is that the light that Hashem created with His utterance was not the original light of creation. That primal light was hidden away for the righteous so that the evil ones would not benefit from it. Had they been aware of that light and still sinned, they would have merited instant death. [Most scientists today agree that suddenly a huge, extremely dense ball of light emerged. This ball immediately exploded and continued to expand, emitting the primary particles that would form the universe. Neither time nor space existed prior to this light. There is no scientific explanation for the appearance of this ball of light. This was the primal light, and is different from the light of, “Let there be light.” This is a simplified explanation of The Big Bang Theory of Creation as I understand it. CKS] “And it was so,” at creation, and, “Aharon did so,” is the response to the non believers who state that it is not so, that Hashem is not the Creator and Master of the world.
When Aharon lit the Menorah, he brought back that original light that again gave clarity to the world. This was the primal light that gave Adam the capability of “seeing from one end of the world to the other,” an ability he lost after his sin. Aharon’s praise here lies in his bringing back that primal light in line with Hashem’s original intention when He created the world.
What was so special about that primal light that it is reserved for the tzadidkim/righteous? Rabbi Rivlin continues his explanation. Every object has a spiritual component and potential in addition to its physical manifestation. Generally, when we see an object, we recognize only its physical form. We don’t even understand how individual atoms join together to form this solid object. We certainly fail to recognize the godliness within it. It takes special insight to see that. Aharon was able to see God’s presence in everything. How could Aharon achieve this level? Because he could nullify himself and focus only on the Menorah and on its purpose. After all, the very name Aharon is an anagram of Nirah/will be seen.
Rabbi Ezrachi, in Birkat Mordechai, explains Aharon’s greatness. The heads of all the tribes had already brought their offerings to Hashem at the dedication of the Tabernacle. Then Hashem commanded Aharon to light the Menorah. Aharon could have wanted to put his own spin on the instructions, to claim some importance to himself. Instead, he did exactly as Hashem commanded. He erased all ego from the performance of the mitzvah. He was claiming no honor for himself, adds Rabbi Druck, but living the concealed light that Hashem invested in the world.
Certainly, Aharon had tremendous insight and wisdom, writes Rabbi Goldstein in Shaarei Chaim, but he put his own ideas aside to do it exactly as Hashem commanded. Many of us today may consult Dr. Google for medical advice, yet we would be foolish to rely on this advice instead of on the instructions of an actual doctor. Instead of doing it “my way,” Aharon did it Hashem’s way. To ignore one’s own ego is truly praiseworthy.
Rabbi Igbi presents a beautiful analogy in Chochmat Hamatzpun. The Gardener planted a magnificent garden with many different plants. Then He created man and placed him in the garden to benefit from all these plants. Only the Gardener truly understands how each plant benefits man. Although man may speculate as to the qualities and values of each plant, only the Gardener knows the true essence of each pant and how it benefits the man. The original garden was the Garden of Eden, but today we are in the garden of the world. Hashem has planted many mitzvoth for our benefit in this garden, and only He knows the full benefit of each. It is foolish for us to declare that gardening techniques today are far more advanced than those of earlier times, and now we should perform mitzvoth according to our current understanding. The rejection of this mindset was Aharon’s greatness.
The true test of a person, writes Rabbi Friedlander z”l citing the Saba of Kelm z”l, lies not so much in how he handles great challenges, for we tend to “rise to the occasion”, but rather in how we handle the small things that seem trivial. All Aharon had to do for this mitzvah was fix the wicks, yet he put as much attention and focus on this mitzvah as on any other, never doing it by rote. It wasn’t only that Aharon didn’t change what Hashem commanded, but that he never changed his excitement and attitude toward the mitzvah.
Wicked people look for bigger and better, for ways to elevate themselves. Tzadikim, on the other hand, see the hidden light of Godliness in even the smallest things. The Torah spends so many words on the details of the Menorah to emphasize that the sacred light is hidden in the small details just as it is in the larger pictures. All are commands from the same God, and we cannot know the ripple effects of even our smallest actions.
Therefore, we are told to be as careful with a “light”, easy mitzvah as with a hard, stringent mitzvah. Rabbi Sternbach offers an example of an easy mitzvah, one which many are totally unaware of. This is the mitzvah of reciting 100 blessings every day. Indeed, the Brisker Rav z”l proposes actually counting the berachot on Shabbat when fewer berachot are in the liturgy of the day. When we recite our berachot throughout the day, hopefully with proper intent, we remain aware of Hashem and remember that He watches over us constantly. And by reciting berachot aloud, we give others the opportunity to respond with Amen and heighten their awareness of Hakodosh Boruch Hu as well.
Each time we do a mitzvah, we reveal God’s light in the world, writes Rabbi Zaichick z”l in Ohr Chodosh. And we do not know the power of any mitzvah. That’s why the Torah keeps telling us to remember receiving the Torah at Sinai, urging us to rekindle the excitement we felt at that time.
It is difficult to maintain enthusiasm for any mitzvah, indeed for any project, after one does it several times. Nevertheless, writes the Sefas Emes z”l, Aharon retained that enthusiasm each day he lit the Menorah.
How can we maintain that excitement? Rabbi Milevsky z”l uses the mitzvah of Birkat Kohanim/The Priestly Blessings to give us some insight. The kohanim may bless Bnei Yisroel only with a sense of joy. That’s why outside Eretz the priests recite the blessings only on the yomim tovim, the holidays that must be celebrated with joy, as it states, “Vesamachta bechegecha/Rejoice in your holidays. The kohanim tap into the excitement of the holiday to create a sense of renewal, and we can tap into their excitement. Perhaps, as we listen to Birkat Kohanim, we are excited that we will soon be going home to our festive meal. Use this excitement, writes Rabbi Milevsky z”l, and transfer it to our davening and to the performance of other mitzvoth. It doesn’t matter that the excitement is based on something artificial. We are not on Aharon’s level to maintain that excitement throughout, so we may very well need to import excitement.
Aharon was concerned that Bnei Yisroel would become bored with doing the mitzvoth, would forget the excitement of inaugurating the Mishkan, and then stop observing mitzvoth altogether. Hashem therefore gave Aharon the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah to inject the feeling of excitement and renewal for mitzvoth into Bnei Yisroel. We got the characteristic chesed and generosity from Avraham Avinu, and truth from Moshe. Now we would also get continued passion to do the mitzvoth from Aharon Hakohein.
Gra, z”l offers a practical suggestion that rings authentic to modern ears: Live in the moment. Imagine this is the only mitzvah you can perform, you can only perform it now, and no one else can perform it but you. Keep in mind also, adds the Netivoth Shalom, that every mitzvah is an opportunity to connect with Hashem. Even if you can’t maintain that focus for all mitzvoth, the effort itself is worthwhile. In the meantime, choose one mitzvah that calls to you, perform that mitzvah with joy and with a sense of connection to Hashem.
Many of us are familiar with the verse, “Chanoch lana’ar al pi darko.../Educate the child according to his nature; then even when he grows old, he will not abandon that path.” Mishlei 22:6) Rabbi Milevsky z”l gives us an interesting interpretation of this verse, citing the Sefas Emes z”l. He urges us to educate the young man to retain the characteristic of na’ar, of youthfulness and excitement, so that he retains a feeling of delight and excitement about Torah and mitzvoth even when he gets older. Then he will never abandon that path. Instill in him the wonder of how fortunate we are that Hashem is interested in us and in our mitzvah performance.
May the symbolic light of the Menorah continue to enlighten our lives, and may Aharon’s dedication to this mitzvah be an example for all of us as we live as proud Jews in the service of Hashem Yisborach.
This summary was written l’iluy nishmat Chaya Sarah bat Shlomo v’Ita Freyda, who was nifterest erev Shabbat.