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This week’s parashah (in Israel – as opposed to the Diaspora where they are behind one parashah since the Second Day of Shavuos, which is observed there, fell on a Shabbos) begins with the commandment to the Kohen Gadol (the High Priest) to light the menorah (candelabrum) in the Tabernacle and in the Holy Temple every morning as it says (Bemidbar 8:1-2), “Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: ‘Speak to Aharon and say to him - When you kindle the lamps, toward the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps cast light.’"

Rashi brings the explanation of the Sages who decreed that it is not enough for the kohen to merely light the candles; he must enkindle them until the light ascends of itself. What is the inherent message hidden in this mitzvah?

I once heard Reb Ya’akov Kaminetsky ztvk”l expound upon the mitzvah of learning Torah. Besides the commandment to learn Torah by himself, one is obligated to teach it to his children. To solve the problem of those who had no father to teach them, the Rabbis of the Talmud institutionalized Torah teaching in the form of yeshivas which exist until this very day. But what exactly is the way to fulfill the mitzvah of learning Torah and what should be the goal of a parent and a rebby? Reb Ya’akov explained that a great misconception prevails concerning this topic.

To demonstrate his point, Reb Ya’akov showed us a Gemara in Shabbos (22b) which discusses the mitzvah of lighting the candles on Chanukah and questions whether the mitzvah is the actual lighting of the candles (hadlakah oseh mitzvah) or the positioning of the menorah after it was lit is the actual mitzvah (hanachah oseh mitzvah). The Gemara attempts to resolve this query in several ways but rejects each effort. Finally, the Gemara brings ultimate proof that it is the lighting of the candles which is the mitzvah by simply focusing on the wording of the blessing which the Sages coined to be said before fulfilling the mitzvah: “Blessed…Hashem…Who has sanctified us with His mitzvahs and commanded us - lehadlik ner shel Chanukah – to light the Chanukah candles.” Obviously, then, it is the lighting of the candles which is the mitzvah and not the positioning of the lit menorah.

Reb Ya’akov argued that besides the actual question at hand, concerning the mitzvah of Chanukah, we can learn from this Gemara a general approach to all of the mitzvahs. We see from this discussion in the Talmud that we can ascertain the essence of a mitzvah by analyzing the wording of its berachah.

This being the case, he continued, we can get the proper insight into the mitzvah of learning Torah by analyzing one of the components of its berachos which we recite each morning: “Please, Hashem our G-d, sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouth and in the mouth of Your People, the family of Israel….” This, he concluded, is the key to our misconception. For we assume that the mitzvah is simply to learn Torah. If that were so, then the goal of a parent and a rebby would be to get his prot?g? to do exactly that – to learn Torah.

But from the wording of the prayer beseeching Hashem to make the Torah sweet in our mouths, we must realize that the actual mitzvah is to love to learn Torah!; and, that being the case, the goal of the mentor must be to get his student not only to learn – but, most importantly, to love to learn.

At another time, Reb Ya’akov deduced an insight from the words of the Rambam (Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:3) which state that one whose father did not teach him is required to teach himself. The Rambam did not write that he must learn by himself but that he must teach himself. This indicates, Reb Ya’akov argued, that this is not the regular obligation to learn Torah but that he actually must replace his own parent and teach himself as if he were teaching someone else.

Applying the above understanding of the goal of every teacher of Torah, it stands to reason that even if one was taught to learn, he must still search for methods to help himself love to learn.

I believe that the Kohen’s kindling of the menorah in the Tabernacle and the Holy Temple may be signifying this important lesson. For the Gemara says that the menorah with its light symbolizes the knowledge of the Torah which is the true light of the world. Therefore, Hashem commanded that it is not enough to simply light its candles and walk away. The Kohen Gadol must enkindle them until the light ascends of itself. The lesson is that it does not suffice to teach the Torah to your son, your student or yourself and then leave him on his own. You must teach in a way that you can be reasonably sure that the light will continue to ascend by itself. How is this possible? By teaching one to love to learn! If he loves it, there is a good chance that he’ll continue doing it on his own even when you are not around, standing over him and prodding him on. Hopefully, he’ll continue to do it all of his life and even pass it on to others who will all learn to love learning and be happy in this world and the world-to-come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel