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Parshas Tetzave

A Light onto our Nation
Rabbi Yosef Levinson

This week's Parsha begins with the mitzva of kindling the Menora. The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzva 98) explains that the purpose of this mitzva was to add glory and splendour to the Beis Hamikdash. The tendency of man is to look upon a house with glowing lights with honour and distinction. Seeing the Beis Hamikdash in all its magnificence instils one with awe and humility.

This mitzva appears to be out of place. In Parshas Teruma, Moshe is commanded to erect the Mishkan. He is taught how to construct the Mishkan and all the necessary keilim. Afterwards, Moshe is told to direct the manufacture of the bigdei Kehuna. This is a continuation of the preparations of the Mishkan. However, in between these two commandments, Moshe is ordered to inform Aharon to light the Menora. Why does the Torah interrupt the construction of the Mishkan with the kindling of the Menora? In the beginning of last week's parsha, Moshe is told to collect materials for the Mishkan. All the items that the Torah lists were required for the construction of the Mishkan except for two: shemen lamaor, oil for kindling the Menora and the ketores, incense. These were required for the daily service. Why was it necessary for Moshe to collect these items along with the other materials? Additionally, what is the significance of lighting the Menora - in particular, why are we taught to prepare the oil as we donate for the Mishkan, and why was the command to light the Menora issued before that of the daily offerings?

The Ramban explains (introduction to Teruma) that the purpose of the Mishkan was to be a continuation of the Revelation at Har Sinai. (The glory that was present at Sinai was present and also seen in the Mishkan on a constant basis.) Just as Hashem spoke to and taught the Torah at Har Sinai, so too, His voice was heard in the Mishkan, where Hashem spoke to Moshe. There were two keilim in the Mishkan which represented the Torah: The Aron and the Menora. The Aron symbolised Torah shebe'ksav, the written law and the traditions of the Oral law. Indeed, Hashem spoke to Moshe from atop the Keruvim on the Aron. The Menorah represents in-depth study of Torah and sevara, the logic of Torah. One can toil in Torah and reveal lessons which were previously hidden. Chazal teach that one who wants to become wise, should pray towards the South. The Menora was stationed on the south side of the Ohel Moed, meeting tent (Bava Basra 25b). The Gemara also says that one who sees olive oil in a dream can expect to be shown the light of Torah, as it is written, oil is for lighting and Torah is compared to light (Brachos 57b).

The Netziv explains that this is why the Torah mentions the shemen zayis and the lighting of the Menora in the middle of the construction of the Mishkan. The Torah is reminding us that the essence of the Mikdash, and essence of hashra'as HaShechina is the limud of Torah and plunging its depths. The Rabbeinu Bachya writes that the word 'kasis' which is used to describe the quality of the oil can be divided into two syllables, kas (kaf, saf) and yas (yud, suf). The gematria, numerical value of the former is 420, equal to how long the second Beis Hamikdash stood while the gematria of the latter is 410, which is how long the first Beis Hamikdash stood. The Torah is hinting that it is in merit of the Or HaTorah, light of the Torah, that we merit the Or HaShechina, Divine light.

The Netziv explains further, that Bnei Yisrael had two primary mentors, Moshe and Aharon. Moshe taught the Dvar Hashem as he heard it from Hashem. Thus Moshe was the teacher of the Torah shebe'ksav and the mesora of Torah sheba'al peh. (Moshe kibel Torah misinai u'mesora l'Yehoshua, Moshe received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua, Avos 1:1.) However Aharon was the primary source of sevara. It was Aharon who taught the first halacha learnt through logic which he told over to Moshe. The role of Aharon and his children was to disseminate this discipline of Torah to the nation. As it is written: "They shall teach Your laws to Yaakov and Your Torah to Yisrael" (Devarim 33:10). Therefore Aharon was designated to light the Menora.

Although Aharon was the Kohen Gadol, this was not why he was selected to kindle the Menora. The Halacha actually states that lighting the Menora is not an avoda, Temple service, and does not require a Kohen; it may be performed by anyone. Rav Moshe Feinstein observes that Moshe was commanded to direct Aharon to kindle the Menora before Aharon was even designated to be a Kohen. It was only in the merit of Torah and to assist him in his role as transmitter of the Or HaTorah, the depths of Torah wisdom, that Aharon was selected to light the Menora. (The Netziv also writes that when Moshe wanted to contemplate the Torah, he would enter the Ohel Moed. Through the light of the Menora, he was able to comprehend that depths of the Torah.)

We might add that the main avoda of the Menora, which did require a Kohen, was cleaning and preparing the Menora for lighting. The lighting itself however, was not an avoda. This is consistent with the idea that one's success in learning is in comparison with his efforts. The more he toils, the more he will succeed. However even then, we are only able to comprehend the Torah as a gift from Hashem - Yagaati Umatzasi, Taamin. Rav Chaim Volozhin writes that if one exerts himself and says that he 'found' Torah, he was given Torah knowledge, believe in him. Through toiling in Torah, Hashem grants us the ability to grasp Chachmas Elokim, Wisdom from on High, which ordinarily is way beyond human comprehension. The Kohen must clean the Menora and make the necessary preparations. After that it does not matter who kindles the Menora, for the light is then a gift.

There are those who are fond of saying that the role of the Jewish people is to be a light unto the nations. However we must realise that our primary focus should be to draw upon the light of our nation: "See I taught you decrees and laws as Hashem…. Has commanded me…. For it is Your wisdom and perception in the eyes of the nations… and who shall say: "Surely a wise and perceptive nation this is". (Devarim 4:5-7). When we toil to understand the Torah, the nations will realise the beauty of the Torah. The wisdom of Torah will shine forth as a beacon of light throughout the world.

Daf Hashavua Kollel Beth HaTalmud Copyright (c) 2002 by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

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