The Eternal Light by Yehuda Koslowe


In the beginning of Parashat BeHa’alotecha, we read about the construction of the Menorah and how Aharon was commanded to build it and service it daily (BeMidbar 8:1-9). Rashi (8:1 s.v. BeHa’alotecha) asks how this story is connected to the Chanukat HaMishkan, the dedication of the Mishkan, the main topic in the previous Parashah. Rashi explains that when the Mishkan was dedicated, all twelve Shevatim had an appointed leader who dedicated the Mishkan, but Aharon’s Sheivet, Sheivet Leivi, did not partake in the dedication. Upon hearing that he and his tribe were left out, Aharon became distressed. When Hashem saw how upset Aharon was, He comforted him by giving him the Menorah, which he and his Sheivet would service. Rashi further states that when Hashem comforted Aharon with the Menorah, He told Aharon, “Chayecha, Shelcha Gedolah MiShelahem,” “I promise, yours (the Menorah) is greater than theirs (the dedication of the Mishkan).”

Although the service of the Menorah is an extremely crucial job in the day-to-day function of the Mishkan, could it possibly be greater than the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dedicate the Mishkan? Ramban (8:2 s.v. BeHa’alotecha) explains that Aharon was not only comforted by his role in lighting the Menorah in the Mishkan, but also by Hashem’s promise to him of the eternal lighting emanating from the Menorah. He further explains that although there is no longer an eternal light due to the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, the Menorah we light on Chanukah is a substitute for this. Based on this comment of Ramban, in addition to other sources, Rav Yosef Dov HaLeivi Soloveitchik explained that we light the Menorah on Chanukah not to commemorate the miracles of Chanukah, but rather to commemorate the lighting of the Menorah in the Beit HaMikdash.

The Rav’s unique interpretation of the source for the Mitzvah of lighting the Menorah on Chanukah still does not answer the question as to why the Menorah comforted Aharon over the lack of his participation in the dedication of the Mishkan. Although it is a source of pride to Aharon that hundreds of generations of Jews would light the Menorah every Chanukah in honor of his Menorah, is this still more amazing than the only opportunity to dedicate of the Mishkan?

 Perhaps we can answer this question by using another idea of the Rav. In the text of Yom Kippur davening, we say that Hashem opens the books of the living and dead. The traditional understanding of this phrase is that Hashem decides whether each person will live or die in the upcoming year. However, the Rav interpreted this phrase to mean that on Yom Kippur, Hashem not only judges those who are alive, but He also judges those who are dead. For example, if somebody donated Tzedakah to Torah institutions during his lifetime, then he continues to get reward for all of the Torah that is learnt because of his charity even after his death. Using this logic, even though Aharon died thousands of years ago and is no longer able to physically light the Menorah, he receives reward every Chanukah when the Jewish people light the Menorah in honor of his original Menorah in the Mishkan. It is because of the eternal award Aharon received that his role in lighting the Menorah was greater than dedicating the Mishkan.

 Based on the Rav’s explanation, we see how important it is to cause or inspire others to do Mitzvot because we can get reward for their actions for thousands of years. For example, imagine how great the reward is for somebody who brings a non-religious Jew closer to Hashem-- this person has now created generations of religious Jews. It is our duty to learn from Aharon how beneficial and worthwhile the eternal award is for keeping Hashem’s Mitzvot. While we may feel as if we are missing out sometimes due to our observance of Mitzvot, the Torah is teaching us how much greater Hashem’s ultimate reward to us is.

What God Wants, Not What You Want by Simcha Wagner

Entitled to Titles by Gavriel Epstein