The Power of Newness

  • Harav Yehuda Amital
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Student Summaries of Sichot of the Roshei Yeshiva
Yeshivat Har Etzion





The Power of Newness

Summarized by Rami Yanai

Translated by Kaeren Fish


Why is the unit discussing the menora placed right after the unit discussing [the gifts of] the tribal princes? Because when Aharon saw the dedication [rites] of the princes, he was disheartened at the fact of not being included in the dedication – neither he personally nor his tribe.  The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: By your life, your [portion] is greater than theirs, for you kindle and prepare the lights. (Rashi, Bamidbar 8:2)


We must ask ourselves why Aharon felt disheartened; after all, he had been chosen to perform the most exalted and holy task of serving as the Kohen Gadol!  Why, then, was it so important to him to participate in the dedication of the Mishkan? Also, it is not clear what comfort he gains from God's reassurance that he will have the task of kindling the menora.


It seems that the princes merited something special, and it was that that Aharon desired – the experience of the "first time."  In dedicating the altar, the princes brought the first sacrifices to the Mishkan, and it was therefore they who sensed most acutely the newness of this form of Divine worship.  Great, mighty powers are revealed in the first steps of any new endeavor.  When something is already in existence, its past already exists; any further steps that we take merely add to it.  For first steps, on the other hand, all the power is drawn from the future.  There is no past upon which to lean in taking these steps; there is only a future dream that motivates us to action.  The dream is always greater and more powerful than reality, and therefore the first steps embody the greatest power.


Indeed, great powers were embodied in the inauguration of the altar.  The midrash tells us that the princes did not consult with each other as to their sacrifices, but each ended up bringing exactly the same offering.  This demonstrates a powerful unity.  Although it would appear that the various tribes, and the princes representing each of them, are like separate branches, each taking its own path and direction, they all share the same trunk.  There is a profound unifying element among them.  Thus it turns out that the princes of all the tribes brought identical sacrifices.


It was the inner powers that were exposed specifically by virtue of the newness of the experience that Aharon so desired; it was for this reason that he was disheartened.


In response, God tells him that he is entrusted with a duty that also contains something of the experience of newness.  The kindling of the menora expresses this experience, insofar as each time it is kindled anew, with no reliance on the past.  The illumination symbolizes the constant spirit of renewal that prevails in the Mishkan, and it is specifically Aharon who is given this task.


It is no coincidence that the Torah is compared to light: "for a commandment is [like] a candle, and the Torah is light" (Mishlei 6:23).  Torah study must be undertaken each day with a view to the future, with a sense of renewal and newness.  This is the power of study.


If there is one period of life that symbolizes, to a greater degree than any other time, the idea of newness and progress that is inspired by the future, it is one's youth.  Therefore it was specifically while Am Yisrael was in its youth that the nation received the Torah: "I remember in your favor the kindness of your youth… how you walked after Me in the wilderness…" (Yirmiyahu 2:2).  It was specifically at this time that the special, early strengths of Am Yisrael were revealed, and it was by virtue of these that they merited receiving the Torah.  In contrast, the generation of the Flood – a generation that was worthy of receiving the Torah – directed its youthful energies in a negative direction instead of a positive one, and therefore lost its chance of receiving the Torah.


In the life of every individual, too, it is necessary that one's youth be devoted to deepening one's study of Torah, motivated by the special sense and experience of newness.


(This sicha was delivered on Shabbat Parashat Beha'alotekha 5733 [1973].)