Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash
parasha series is dedicated
Le-zekher Nishmat HaRabanit Chana
bat HaRav Yehuda Zelig zt"l.
parasha series is dedicated
honor of Rabbi Menachem Leibtag and Rabbi Elchanan
You Kindle the Lamps"
Parashat Beha'alotekha starts (8:1-4) with
Moshe's command to Aharon to light the Menora (Candelabrum) and Aharon's
fulfillment of the command:
spoke to Moshe, saying: "Speak to Aharon and say to him, 'When you kindle the
lamps, the seven lamps shall illuminate towards the body of the Menora.' And Aharon did so; he lit its lamps to
face the body of the Menora, as God
had commanded Moshe. And this was
the work of the Menora: it was of
solid gold, from its shaft to its flowers, all of one piece, like the image
which God had shown Moshe, so he had made the Menora.
gives rise to two main questions:
does this unit appear here? What is
the connection between the lighting of the Menora by Aharon and the events
comprising the narrative of Sefer Bamidbar?
command to light the Menora has
already appeared twice in the Torah: in Shemot 27:20-21 and in Vayikra 24:1-4. Why is the Torah now repeating it for a
shall start our exploration of the significance of lighting the Menora in Parashat Tetzavveh (Shemot 27:20-21), the first place where
it is mentioned — or, more precisely, the first unit focusing on the oil for
Oil for Lighting
Chapter 25 of Sefer Shemot, Parashat Teruma starts with
God's command to take a contribution from the people consisting of all the
various raw materials (vv. 3-7) needed for the Mishkan (Tabernacle), including "oil for
lighting" (v. 6). The text then
continues with a detailed description of the fashioning of each of the vessels
of the Mishkan (including the Menora itself, 25:31-40). Afterwards, at the beginning of the next
parasha (Shemot 27:20-21),
Tetzavveh, there is an additional command to bring oil for
for you, you shall command Benei Yisra'el
(the Israelites), that they
should bring you pure beaten olive oil for lighting, to kindle a light
always. In the Tent of Meeting,
outside of the Veil which is before the Testimony, Aharon and his sons shall
order it from evening until morning before God; it is an eternal statue for your
generations, on behalf of Benei
same command reappears, almost word for word, in Sefer Vayikra (24:1-4):
spoke to Moshe, saying: "Command Benei
Yisra'el, that they should bring you pure beaten olive oil for lighting, to
kindle a light always. Outside the
Veil of the Testimony, in the Tent of Meeting, Aharon shall order it, from
evening until morning, before God always; an eternal statute for your
generations. He shall order the
lamps upon the pure Menora, before
two units present us with three difficulties:
As noted, Parashat Teruma starts with the command to bring
all the raw materials for the Mishkan
and its vessels, and among these the Torah explicitly lists "oil for
lighting." Why, then, is there a
need for a separate, special command afterwards to bring oil? The question is intensified in light of
the fact that of all the materials listed at the beginning of Teruma, only the oil is awarded an
additional, special command.
The special additional command is introduced with a unique formula: "Ve-atta
tetzavveh," "As for you, you shall command." This is the only place in all of the
Torah where a command appears in this particular form.
What is the meaning of this
Why does the command then appear again, for the third time, in Sefer Vayikra?
the first question, we may propose a simple answer: oil is a commodity that is
used up. Hence, the bringing of the
oil is not a one-time event; the stock needs replenishing from time to
time. The command at the beginning
of Parashat Teruma refers to the initial
contribution of oil for the beginning of the Mishkan service; thereafter, more oil
becomes necessary, and it is this need that is addressed in the second command
in Parashat Teruma.
adopts this explanation (commenting on Shemot 27:20):
for you, you shall command" – previously, God has said (25:2), "Speak to Benei Yisra'el, that they should take a
contribution for Me" – i.e., immediately, for the purposes of the Mishkan. Here, however, the command is meant for
all generations, to give oil for light each year. Therefore God says, "You shall
command." It is a new formulation,
because anywhere that the Torah uses the term "Command", it is meant for all
generations. Thus it says, in
Torat Kohanim (Tzav 1) and in the Sifrei (Bamidbar
1), "Every expression of 'Command' is meant for the time when it is
given and for future generations as well."
explanation also answers our second question, noting that the unusual
formulation of the command tells us that this is an ongoing command, for future
generations as well.
addresses our third question in his commentary on Vayikra 24:2. He maintains that the command concerning
the Menora in Sefer Vayikra is a secondary issue that is
subsumed in the command to set up the Table (ibid., vv. 5-9): part of the
arranging of the Showbread on the Table is the lighting of the Menora, which illuminates the
explanation is problematic, for two reasons:
The fragrances used for the anointing oil and for the incense are likewise used
up, and they too must be brought again and again – yet they appear only in the
general command, with no special, separate command afterwards.
Therefore, we must conclude that
the fact that oil is an exhaustible commodity is not sufficient to explain the
repetition of the command in Sefer Shemot.
It is difficult to argue that the oil and the Menora appear in Sefer Vayikra only "by the way," as part of
the command concerning the Table.
Firstly, if the Menora is
really a secondary matter here, it would be mentioned only briefly. Secondly, and more importantly, the
command to light the Menora appears
command about the Table. It makes
no sense that the secondary issue is mentioned before the main command
we come back to our original question.
Perhaps the purpose of all the repetition is to emphasize the special
importance of bringing the oil. Why
must the Torah emphasize this so strongly?
Why is it so important? To
answer this question, we must examine the commands in Sefer Shemot and in Sefer Vayikra in their respective
The Duality of
Lighting the Menora
units concerning the oil in Sefer Shemot
is a noticeable uniformity in the introduction of all the commands concerning
the Mishkan and its vessels in Parashat Teruma:
shall make an
Ark… and you
shall cover it…
"And you shall
upon it a rim of gold… (ibid.)
"And you shall
Table" (ibid., v. 24)
"And you shall
golden Menora" (ibid., v.
the Mishkan shall you
"And you shall
the boards" (ibid., v. 15)
"And you shall
covering" (ibid., v. 31)
"And you shall
the Altar" (27:1)
"And you shall
the courtyard" (ibid., v. 9)
of these commands are addressed to Moshe, and they are formulated using the verb
command concerning the oil is different: "As for you, you shall command
that they should bring
you pure beaten olive oil for lighting…" (27:20). This is the only command in this unit
that is addressed, through Moshe, to Benei Yisra'el. This point is emphasized once again at
the conclusion of the unit (27:21): "Aharon and his sons shall order it…
behalf of Benei
Mishkan is built by Moshe. This fact may lead to the impression
that Benei Yisra'el have no portion
in it. The unit concerning the oil
is meant to counter this perception: Benei Yisra'el's share in the Mishkan is the regular contribution of
oil for lighting, every year. Moshe
builds the Mishkan, but the
construction is a one-time event.
Am Yisra'el (the Jewish
people) participate in a way that is ongoing – by bringing oil every
while the unit with the special formulation, "You shall command" describes
Aharon and his sons lighting the lamps, the emphasis is on the fact that the
lighting is done with oil brought by Benei Yisra'el. The kohanim (priests) are the
emissaries of the nation, lighting the Menora on their behalf, using the oil
that they have contributed.
same idea is reinforced by the order in which the Torah discusses the various
aspects of preparing the Mishkan:
First are the commands to build the various structures and vessels
Then comes the command to light the Menora (27:20-21);
Last is the sanctification of the kohanim and their garments
command concerning the lighting of the Menora by the kohanim precedes their sanctification;
i.e., the kohanim are commanded to
light the Menora even before they are
sanctified and ready for their priestly service. This may indicate that the lighting of
the Menora is performed by the
kohen not as an intrinsically "priestly" duty, but rather as the
representative of the people.
The kohanim perform the lighting on behalf
of all of Israel, who bring the
conclude, then, that the special command to bring oil is meant to emphasize the
participation of the people in the lighting of the Menora – which is also their share in
the Sanctuary, for all generations.
unit concerning oil in Sefer Vayikra
unit in Sefer Vayikra is almost identical to the
special command in Sefer Shemot. However, it is this very similarity that
serves to highlight the difference between them, which occurs at the end of the
unit. In Sefer Shemot, the unit concludes with the
words, "on behalf of Benei
Yisra'el." In Vayikra, the conclusion is, "He shall
order the lamps upon the pure Menora,
before God always." This ending
omits the emphasis on the people's share in the lighting, replacing it with the
purity of the Menora and the fact
that it is before God always. In
other words, Vayikra emphasizes the
intensity of the holiness of the Menora, which is "before
Sefer Vayikra deals with the holiness and
purity of the Sanctuary, which is removed from the various impurities of Benei Yisra'el. Hence, as appropriate to this context,
the lighting of the Menora is also
presented as part of this entity of holiness. According to this description, the Menora is lit by Aharon and his sons as
representatives of holiness.
Accordingly, the command to light the Menora (in Chapter 24) appears only
after the sanctification of the kohanim (in Chapter 8), unlike the order
in Sefer Shemot.
Two Aspects of
Lighting the Menora
the purpose of the dual description in Shemot and Vayikra is to teach us about the two
aspects of the lighting of the Menora:
on the one hand, the kohanim light
the Menora as representatives of Benei Yisra'el. This is the aspect reflected in Sefer Shemot; on the other hand, the kohanim are responsible for lighting the
Menora as representatives of
holiness; this aspect is reflected in Sefer Vayikra.
the unit in Vayikra, which emphasizes
the lighting by the kohanim
specifically in the context of their status in the Mishkan, still opens with a mention of
the nation's share: "Command Benei Yisra'el,
that they should bring you pure, beaten olive oil…" Perhaps it is precisely because Sefer Vayikra describes the sanctity of the kohanim and their tasks in the Mishkan, creating the impression that
the people have no share in these activities, that the Torah chooses to mention
their portion in the holy service: the preparation of the oil and bringing it to
The Unit of the
Menora in Parashat Beha'alotekha
nation's share in the service of the Mishkan
us now return to our parasha. Chapters 7-8 in Sefer Bamidbar describe three events: the
inauguration of the Altar (through the sacrifices of the princes of the tribes);
the lighting of the Menora; and the
purification of the Levites. The
command to light the Menora here
refers, seemingly, to the first lighting.
The first lighting of the Menora takes place at the inauguration
of the Mishkan; hence, the unit that
introduces Parashat Beha'alotekha refers to the inauguration
of the Menora.
the inauguration of the Altar, the Torah describes the inauguration of the Menora, and then the purification of the
Levites. Why are these three
events, which belong to the inauguration of the Mishkan, recorded here – in Sefer Bamidbar – rather than in the seemingly
more appropriate contexts of Shemot
answer is that Sefer Bamidbar describes the nation's journey
in the wilderness as a camp with the Divine Presence in its midst and the
relationship between the nation and the Mishkan. As part of this description, Sefer Bamidbar includes a description of the
inauguration of the Mishkan from the
perspective of the people: the offerings of the princes, at the inauguration of
the Altar, symbolize the participation of the nation in the consecration of the
Mishkan. The sanctification of the Levites is
described specifically in Sefer Bamidbar because the Levites replace the
first-born in the Mishkan service;
thus, the kohanim are the nation's
representatives in the Sanctuary.
the beginning of the shiur, we asked what connects the lighting of the
lamps by Aharon to the progression of events in Sefer Bamidbar, and why the unit about the
lighting is mentioned here for the third time. We are now in a position to answer these
on our analysis thus far, we understand that the Menora is special in that Benei Yisra'el have a share in it,
through their bringing the oil.
Actually, Benei Yisra'el's
share in the service of the Sanctuary finds expression in two of the vessels of
Menora – by bringing
Altar – by bringing sacrifices.
is no coincidence that it is in Sefer
Bamidbar, which describes the
relationship between the nation and the Mishkan, that the Torah records the
inauguration of the Altar and of the Menora. The description of the inauguration of
the Mishkan in Sefer Bamidbar focuses specifically on these
two vessels, which give expression to the nation's share in the Sanctuary.
share in the people's service
the beginning of the parasha (8:2), Rashi offers his famous comment:
you kindle" – why does the unit on the Menora follow the offerings of the
princes? Because when Aharon
observed the inauguration by the princes, he grew despondent about not having
been among them in the inauguration – neither he personally, nor his tribe. God said to him, "By your life, your
portion is greater than theirs, for you will light and arrange the
despondency is difficult to understand: after all, he is the main actor in all
of the service of the Mishkan! Moreover, we wonder: why is it
specifically the Menora that God
offers him as "compensation"? God
could have reminded him of all of the other services in the Mishkan.
source for Rashi's explanation is to be found in the Midrash:
you light" – what precedes this?
"And it was on the day that Moshe finished… and the princes brought their
offerings" (7:1-2), and thereafter, "Speak to Aharon: When you kindle…"
(8:2). Previously, eleven tribes
brought sacrifices, plus the tribe of Efrayim,
but the tribe of Levi did not offer… and Aharon did not offer a sacrifice
together with the other princes of the tribes. He said, "Woe to me; perhaps it is on my
account that the tribe of Levi is not accepted." God therefore said to Moshe: "Go and
tell Aharon: Do not fear; you are worthy of a greater share than they." Therefore Moshe is told, "Speak to Aharon
and say to him, 'When you kindle…'
The sacrifices – [only] as long as the Temple stands, they are brought;
the lamps, however, are forever before the Menora, and all of the blessings which I
have given you to bless My children – they will never be
(Midrash Tanchuma, Parashat Beha'alotekha,
Midrash gives us the reason why
Aharon is despondent. The princes
have brought their offerings voluntarily and willingly. Each has offered as the representative
of his tribe, and by virtue of the sacrifice, the tribe has been "accepted"
before God. Aharon feels that
although, owing to his official capacity as Kohen Gadol in the Mishkan, he has been responsible for
offering a great many sacrifices, he is losing out on the opportunity to bring a
sacrifice as an individual, and as the prince of his tribe. In other words, he wants to participate
in the inauguration of the Mishkan
not only as a representative of holiness, but also as part of the
explains why God consoles him with the lighting of the Menora. This is the only service that is given
to Aharon, as the representative of the people, before he is sanctified as
Kohen Gadol. Therefore, when
Aharon seeks to take part in the nation's inauguration of the Mishkan, the Menora is the most appropriate vessel to
conclude, therefore, that the lighting of the Menora is not out of place in Sefer Bamidbar – the sefer that represents the nation's
service. Even Aharon himself does
not function here as a representative of holiness, but rather as the
representative of the nation.
above explanation fits in well with the Sages' perception of Aharon as a person
who is connected to the people.
Aharon wants to participate in
specifically that aspect of the Mishkan service that represents the
entire nation. As the Kohen
Gadol, he works in the Mishkan
all the time as "God's emissary." What Aharon wants is to be among the
"emissaries of the nation." This
combination is achieved through the lighting of the Menora.
between the nation and Aharon
Sefer Shemot, Moshe is commanded concerning
the building of the Mishkan and its
service, and at first glance it seems that Am Yisra'el has no part in it. However, in the unit of lighting the Menora, we discover that the nation does
indeed have a share in the service of the Mishkan – and its part is eternal, not a
one-time effort like that of Moshe.
Sefer Bamidbar, the nation celebrates the
inauguration of the Mishkan through
offering free-will sacrifices, and at first glance it seems that Aharon has no
share in the nation's inauguration.
However, here too, the unit of lighting the Menora changes the picture: Aharon is
part of the nation through his lighting of the lamps. Moreover, the inauguration of the
princes of the tribes is a one-time event, while the lighting is for all
Yisra'el and the Light of the
is the significance of these two aspects of lighting the Menora? Why is the nation's participation
emphasized so strongly specifically in the lighting of the Menora?
answer to this is to be found in the Midrash:
speaking, God said to Moshe: "Say to Israel, 'It is not because I need
your light that I tell you to light the lamp, but rather for your own merit…'"
when a person builds a house, he makes windows in the house, since he wants the
light to enter. So he makes the
windows narrow on the outside, and wide on the inside. Why? In order that the light will enter from
outside and illuminate inside. But
when Shelomo built the Temple, he did not make the windows like
this. Rather, he made them narrow
on the inside and wide on the outside, in order that the light would emanate
from the Temple
and illuminate outwards. As it is
written, "And for the House he made windows that were wide" on the outside "and
narrow" on the inside (I Melakhim 6:4) – to show that God is all light,
and He has no need for your light.
then, have I commanded you? To give
you merit. Therefore it is written,
'When you kindle the lamps…'"
(Midrash Tanchuma, Parashat Beha'alotekha,
Midrash makes it clear that the Menora is not meant to provide light for
God. God does not need people to
light up His House. On the
contrary, the Temple is built so that light will emerge from
the inside and illuminate outwards.
on this view, we would expect that specifically at this special lighting,
illuminating outward, Benei Yisra'el
should have no share; it should be carried out only by the kohanim as representatives of the
holiness of the Mishkan (as the
lighting is indeed presented in Sefer
Vayikra). However, the Torah chooses to emphasize
the nation's share in the lighting.
Menora symbolizes the light of the
from it and illuminating the world outside. The Torah emphasizes that the entire
nation has a share in this mission: the light of the Temple is closely bound up
with the nation. Without Benei Yisra'el lighting the Menora, the light of the Temple will not have any
effect outside. Benei Yisra'el's actions also influence
the light of the Temple – their transgressions
affect the Temple's sanctity and purity, and therefore
atonement must be made for the Sanctuary, on Yom Kippur, for all of the
impurities of Benei Yisra'el.
of the sanctity of the Camp of Israel as a whole is essential to the Divine
Presence dwelling in the Mishkan.
Thus, it is specifically through
the vessel that expresses the influence of the Temple's light outward that God chooses to
emphasize the role of Am Yisra'el,
influencing the sanctity of the Sanctuary through their
Am Yisra'el observe the sanctity of
their camp and bring oil for light, they are partners in kindling the light of
the Sanctuary and disseminating it outward.
by Kaeren Fish