SALT - Sunday, Chag Shavuot, 6 Sivan 5776 - June 12, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            Parashat Behaalotekha begins with the command that the menorah in the Mishkan should be kindled each day.  Rashi, in one of the more famous passages in his Torah commentary, explains (based on the Midrash Tanchuma) that this command is reiterated here as a source of reassurance to Aharon, who felt disheartened after the festive inauguration of the Mishkan.  As the final section of the previous parasha, Parashat Naso, describes in great detail, the event of the Mishkan’s inauguration included elaborate sacrifices offered by each of the nation’s tribal leaders.  The only tribe which was not represented was Aharon’s tribe, Levi, and Aharon’s exclusion caused him great distress.  God sought to console Aharon by reminding him of the privilege he was granted to light the menorah each day.

            Already the Ramban questioned this account, asking why specifically the kindling of the menorah would serve as a source of solace to Aharon.  Of all the special privileges given to Aharon, which included the daily incense offering and the annual Yom Kippur service, why did God note specifically the kindling of the menorah?

            Rav Aryeh Leib Baron, in his Yesamach Chayim (p. 183), suggests an answer by more carefully examining Rashi’s terminology in this passage.  Rashi writes that God told Aharon that his privilege was greater than that of the tribal leaders “in that you kindle and prepare the lamps [of the menorah]” (“she-ata madlik u-meitiv et ha-neirot”).  The “consolation” came not from the fact that Aharon kindled the lamps of the menorah, but rather from the fact that he kindled the lamps and also prepared them after they were extinguished for the next evening’s kindling.  The tribal leaders offered voluntary, one-time sacrifices to inaugurate the altar, but did not perform any act that signified continuity.  Aharon’s kindling of the menorah, however, also included the role of hatavat ha-neirot – cleaning the lamps in preparation for the next night’s lighting.  His involvement was inherently ongoing and constant.  Whereas the nesi’im participated in a one-time event, Aharon’s participation in the Mishkan was consistent and enduring.

            The greatest privileges we have are not the dramatic, one-time events, but rather our day-to-day routine of good deeds.  The “lights” of goodness that we “kindle” each day are more significant that the occasional great moments that we have.  Therefore, it is critical that we involve ourselves not only in the “kindling,” but also in the “hatava” – in ensuring that we develop consistent habits and routines so that we “shine” each day, without exception, each of us doing his or her share to add a bit more light and goodness into the world.