Tetsave: The flame that rises by itself

Educators find a message in the word used in the instructions for lighting the menorah.

Danny Ginsbourg, | updated: 19:13

Judaism Danny Ginsbourg
Danny Ginsbourg

Parshat Tetsave commences with Hashem’s commandment to Moshe Rabbenu:(27:20)’Now you shall command Bnei Israel that they take to you pure, pressed olive oil for illumination, להעלות: to kindle the lamp (the Menorah) continually’.

Rav Yonatan Eyebeshitz comments that the main עבודה: ‘work’, of the cohanim, is to be the teachers of Torah; this is ‘symbolized’ by the mitzvah that they light the candles of the Menorah, as it represents the light and wisdom of the Torah.

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch notes that the word להעלות- and not the more ‘literally correct’ word for lighting: להדליק- is only used with regard to the candles of the Menorah. 

This, he explains, is מדוקדק: as it accurately captures the role of Torah teachers: they are to light the flame of Torah in their pupils, until , as the mitzvah (Shabbat 21.) ‘the flame of Torah ascends of itself’: להעלות מאליה.

The Ben Ish Hai, offers a beautiful insight, finding an allusion to our Gemara, in the Torah’s words on a word ‘related’ to ‘להעלות’ , the עולה offering; the Torah states:(Tzav 6:2)’זאת תורת העולה, היא העולה: ‘This is the Torah of the עולה, it ascends’, by itself.This, he expounds, is an ‘aid’, to the teaching of our Gemara, that the word ‘להעלות’, means that the flame of the Menorah must , likewise, ascend ‘of itself’: להעלות מאליה.

Rav Moshe Feinstein expounds:  it is the duty of every Torah teacher to place the Torah in the mouth of his pupil, until it is like a set table before him, and the pupil can learn Torah by himself- like the ‘flame which ascends by itself’!

Rav Hirsch ‘adds’:Accordingly, by succeeding in his duty,  the Torah teacher makes himself ‘redundant’, as, by enabling the pupil to learn by himself, the teacher is no longer needed!

Rav Feinstein derives another critical lesson to Torah teachers, from the Menorah: the same amount of oil is used for each candle- half a lug- be it in the long winter months, or the short summer months.

This, he expounds, teaches that the teacher must give as much attention to the more able pupils- the ‘summer’ ones- as to the less talented pupils- the ‘winter’ ones.

He should not give less attention to the able ones, thinking that they are able to learn on their own, as it is their greater ability that makes them more susceptible to ‘straying’, if not given the full attention of the teacher.

On the other hand, he must not give less attention to the less able pupils, thinking that they are, in any event, less likely to become Torah scholars.

All must be given the same amount of ‘oil’, to cause the individual flame of each pupil to ‘ascend by itself,  so that each pupil can ‘attain his share in the Torah’.

And, how fortunate is the Torah teacher who succeeds in this sacred duty, as he has thereby fulfilled the purpose for which he was created- as our sages teach (Midrash Shmuel to Avot 2:8)’If you have learned a lot of Torah, do not keep it to yourself’, but share it, ‘as for this you were created’!