The first Rashi in this week’s Parsha, Beha’alotcha, asks why does the Torah juxtapose the Parsha of the menorah at the beginning of this week’s parsha with the Parsha of the Nesi’im from the end of last week’s parsha? Rashi answers that when Aharon saw the contributions of the Nesi’im to the Mishkan, he was saddened at the fact that he and the rest of Shevet Levi were not able to participate in the contributions. Hashem responds by telling him not to worry, his portion is greater than theirs because he will light and set up the candles of the menorah.
The Ramban asks a question on this Rashi: Why did Aharon get so depressed? Isn’t he the only one that can do the service of Yom Kippur, the one who goes into the Kodesh Hakedoshim which is as close to Hashem as one possibly can get? Isn’t his tribe the one that was entrusted with leading the service of Hashem in the Mishkan and many other aspects? He had so many opportunities to serve Hashem, what made him so upset about this one Mitzvah? One may think the answer to this question would be that Aharon was upset because the contributions of the Nesi’im were voluntary, while his jobs were commandments. This cannot be true because then Hashem’s promise to him that he will light the menorah, which is also a commandment, would not appease him. The Ramban leaves this question unanswered, but explains based on a Medrash Rabba that Hashem was telling Aharon that his portion is significantly greater because korbanot are only brought when the Beit Hamikdash is still standing, while the candles will always be, “אֶל מוּל פְּנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה יָאִירוּ “, shine towards the center of the Menorah.
The Ramban then asks, isn’t the menorah also no longer lit since the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed? He answers that the candles that Hashem is referring to are the candles of the miracle of Chanukah which we light nowadays even without the Beit Hamikdash.
The Kli Yakar asks on this point of the Ramban: Weren’t the candles of Chanukah also discontinued for a period of time after the Chashmonaim? He answers that the difference between the candles and the korbanot, is that when the candles return was brought about through miracles, unlike the korbanot which did not come back at all.
Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman offers a possible answer to the Ramban’s unanswered question of what exactly upset Aharon. He brings down a story of the great Vilna Gaon who right before his death, grabbed onto the strings of his tzitzit and began to weep uncontrollably. He explained to those around him that it pained him so deeply to think that once he left this world, he would no longer be able to fulfill any mitzvah in Olam Haba (The World To Come), even a simple one such as tzitzit. Rabbi Ruderman explains that so too Aharon loved every single mitzvah, and even though he had many other privileges that no one else received, he still could not stand that he was not able to fulfill this one mitzvah together with the Nesi’im. We see from Aharon HaKohen and the Vilna Gaon such an intense love for each and every Mitzvah, that their inability to fulfill even just one upset them.
R Shniur Kotler asks that according to this, what was Hashem’s response to Aharon to make him feel better? He answers that Hashem explains to Aharon that he was given a portion in every mitzvah. The Pasuk says, “כי נר מצוה ותורה אור” “for the candle is the mitzvah and the Torah is the light” (Mishlei 6:23). We see a clear comparison of a candle to a Mitzvah and the Torah to light. Therefore, when Hashem commanded Aharon in the lighting of the menorah he was in essence giving over to him the role of leadership in terms of Torah learning. This can also be seen from the pasuk “כִּי שִׂפְתֵי כֹהֵן יִשְׁמְרוּ דַעַת וְתוֹרָה יְבַקְשׁוּ מִפִּיהוּ” “for the lips of the Kohen should safeguard knowledge, and people should seek teaching from his mouth” (Malachi 2:7). Each and every mitzvah is represented by a candle, and each and every candle must be lit from the fire of the Torah. Through this, we see that Aharon really did take part in every mitzvah, and furthermore, Hashem tells Aharon that he will get the Mitzvah of the Menorah which represents Torah and will last forever.
We should all be zoche to value and enjoy each and every mitzvah like our great ancestors and understand the power that Torah has on our lives as well.
Lior Goldstein lives in Boca Raton, Florida. He studied in Yeshivas Derech Etz Chaim in Jerusalem for two years and is currently studying in Lander College for Men in New York. I would like to thank Lior for once again filling in for me.
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