Beha'alotcha: The lights of the Menorah still burn brightly

How does the Oral Law connect the tribal leaders' offering, the Menorah - and Hannukah?

Danny Ginsbourg ,

עיטור המנורה על הנר
עיטור המנורה על הנר
צילום: ענת רסיוק, רשות העתיקות

Our Parasha opens (8:1-3) with Hashem saying to Moshe:’Speak to Aaron, and say to him:When you kindle את הנרות: the lamps, towards the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps cast light; Aaron did so, toward the face of the Menorah he kindled its lamps, as Hashem had commanded Moshe’.

Rashi comments:’Aaron was chagrined that every tribal leader had a role in dedicating the new Tabernacle, in the offerings that they brought, while he and his tribe, Levi, was excluded. Hashem comforted him, saying that his service was greater than theirs, because he would prepare and kindle the Menorah’.

The Ramban asks:’Why was Aaron not consoled by the numerous offerings that he had brought during the dedication of the Mishkan, or by the Yom Kipur service which he alone conducted? Surely these were no less important than the offerings of the tribal leaders, the Nesi’im.

‘Further, what consolation did he find in the kindling of the Menorah? It, like the offerings, could only be performed when we merited to have a Beit Mikdash.

‘Therefore’, he expounds, ‘the ‘kindling of the Menorah’, by which Aaron was consoled, alluded to another ‘kindling’ of lights in the Mikdash- the lights of Hannukah which would be kindled by the descendants of Aaron: the Chashmonaim’.

Rav Gedalia Schor asks:’What allusion is there in the ‘kindling of the lights in the Mikdash’ to the lights which would be lit by the Chashmonaim; in what respect are the lights of Hannukah a ‘continuation’ of the Menorah in the Mishkan?’.

He answers:’The lights of the Menorah in the Mishkan, were the source, the ‘inspiration’, for תורה שבעל פה: the Oral Torah’.

The Netziv writes that Moshe Rabenu would seek insights of the Oral Torah, from the Menorah. Indeed, our Sages say (Baba Batra 25:):’One who wishes to be ‘wise’- in Torah- ‘should face south, as the Menorah was in the south of the Mishkan’.

Adds Rav Schorr:’The offerings of the נשיאים: the tribal leaders, were brought of their own volition, and Moshe was reluctant to accept them, for this reason, until commanded by Hashem, to accept them.

‘Their action derived from their own understanding, from the well-spring of Oral Torah, in their souls.

‘It was this ‘insight’ of each of the twelve Leaders, that Aaron did not ‘merit’ to share, as he did not see fit to bring an offering, as they had.

‘This was the reason for his distress, as he feared that neither he, nor his tribe, had merited the light of the Oral Torah.

‘To reassure him on this matter, Hashem told him that his descendants, the Chashmonaim, would achieve a greater height of Oral Torah, by lighting the lights of Hannukah.

‘How ‘greater’? The offerings of the Leaders, wondrous as they were, were a once only occurrence, and, further, such offerings could only be brought when we merited to have a Beit Mikdash.

‘The lights that the descendants of Aaron, the Chahmonaim, kindled on Hannukah, on the other hand, are-and will be-lit by all generations’.

Rav David Hofstedter adds:’The lights of Hannukah, were like the offerings of the Leaders, in that both were an expression of Oral Law, as neither had not been commanded by Hashem.

‘However, the lighting by the descendants of Aaron, the cohanei Chashmonaim, were a חידוש עצום: a great ‘innovation’, as this was one of the very few mitzvot d’rabanan- of oral Torah- that are not a branch, nor have a link, to a Torah-ordained Mitzvah.

‘So much so, that our Sages ask, on its bracha:’That..commanded us to light Hannukah candles’: where is it commanded?

‘They answer: By our Sages, as Oral Torah! In this respect, the Hannukah lights are a ‘continuation’ of the lights of the Menorah in the Mishkan, AND, whilst ‘comparable’ to the offerings of the Leaders, are ‘greater’ than them, because they endure through all the generations, even when, ר׳ל, we do not merit to have a Beit Mikdash’.

Rav Yosef Salant offers the following beautiful insight:’The animal offerings, like those brought by the Leaders, important as they were, only had a השפעה: an ‘influence’ whilst they could be brought in the Beit Hamikdash. ‘True, as Hashem told Avraham Avinu, Hashem ‘accepted’ learning the Torah portions of the offerings, ‘in their place’, when there was no Beit Hamikdash; however, their actual השפעה is not felt, when they cannot actually be offered.

‘The Menorah, on the other hand, which was kindled by the Cohanim, alludes, as our Sages teach, to the light of Torah, and its wisdom.

‘True, when we do not merit to have a Beit Mikdash, the Menorah is not kindled.

‘However, all the learning and teachings of the Sages of the Oral Torah, through all the ages- irrespective of whether the Menorah is, or is not, kindled- continues to light our souls, and to inspire us to higher levels of the wisdom of the Oral Torah.

‘This is the true meaning of Hashem’s consolation to Aaron:’Yours is greater’, the eternal flame of the Oral Torah, the source of which is the light of the Menorah, lit by Aaron in the Beit Hamikdash’.

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.