"Your Share is Greater Than Theirs"

  • Harav Yehuda Amital

Sicha for Shabbat from the Roshei Yeshiva
Yeshivat Har Etzion




"Your Share is Greater Than Theirs"

Adapted by Dov Karoll

And God spoke to Moshe, saying, "Speak to Aharon and say to him: When you light [literally, raise up] the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light opposite the frame of the menora." And Aharon did so, and he lit the lamps opposite the frame of the menora, as God commanded Moshe.

And this was the work of the menora: it was of beaten gold, from its shaft to its flowers it was beaten work; according to the pattern which God had shown Moshe, so he made the menora. (Bemidbar 8:1-4)

Rashi says that Aharon was feeling dejected after the inaugural offerings of the princes, for he had no share in the offerings; God came and comforted him, stating that his share is greater than theirs, for he lights the menora. What is the reason for this explanation? The Torah already commanded Aharon about the lighting of the menora in Sefer Shemot – at the beginning of Tetzavveh (27:20) and in Parshat Pekudei.


There is an ethical point that we can learn from the repetition of this command. The Torah commanded the lighting of the menora at the beginning, and Aharon followed through on that command. As with all such important tasks, at first it was difficult and required great effort. However, as one gets used to a task, it became easier; furthermore, one tends to forget the significance of the project as it becomes standard. Accordingly, the Torah found it appropriate to repeat the command, to remind Aharon of the importance of lighting the menora, so that he not take it for granted.


The Ramban addresses this same issue, and asks what was the cause of Aharon's frustration, and in what way did the command of the menora solve that problem? A first suggestion the Ramban cites is that, while all the princes brought their offerings voluntarily, Aharon's service was mandatory; as such, he felt he was unable to express the same spontaneity shown by the princes in their offerings. The Ramban rejects this answer, based on the fact that the lighting of the menora was also mandatory. But this suggestion of the Ramban is worth discussing, as it teaches us an important lesson. I recognize that this notion has not been popular in recent years.


Aharon felt that his service was inferior because it was mandated and standard, lacking the newness of the princes' worship. Nevertheless, God told him that his share is greater than theirs. How so? "Gadol ha-metzuvveh ve-oseh mi-mi she-eino metzuvveh ve-oseh," "The fulfillment of one who is commanded is greater than the fulfillment of one who is not commanded" (Kiddushin 31a and elsewhere).

When one fulfills mandatory and regular tasks, one gets into a routine; voluntary and spontaneous acts have vigor and liveliness. This is why Aharon felt that the offerings of the princes were superior. However, God assured him that his share was greater, for even things that are ongoing and set can be done with excitement and vigor. The Midrash that Rashi and the Ramban are explaining says that "the flame rises on its own." The flame of the menora is a symbol for the power of fulfilling the command. Fire, by its nature, is never static – it is always changing, always moving, always developing. This is the lesson that God was teaching Aharon. It is the value of "You shall offer the one lamb in the morning, and you shall offer the other lamb in the evening" (Bemidbar 28:4), of the daily offering, of consistency, of following the command of God.

Tosafot (Kiddushin 31a s.v. gadol) explain that the performance of one who is commanded is superior because he has greater concern and anxiety to fulfill his duty; the person who is acting voluntary is more relaxed, knowing that if he so desires, he can simply leave the task.


This brings us to an important distinction regarding the difference between one who is commanded and one who volunteers. One who is commanded faces the pressure and challenge of proper fulfillment. One who fulfills out of good will strives for inner tranquility and serenity. Tranquility is desirable when one is trying to fall asleep, but our worldview is that this is not a guiding principle in life. Rather, one needs to be striving to advance, to progress, to take on new challenges and to conquer them.


In our spiritual lives, we seek the pressure of challenges rather than tranquility. It is only by following this path that one can be considered to be moving "with God."


This healthy pressure, that leads us to growth and striving in our service of God, is the message we gain from the principle of "Gadol ha-metzuvveh ve-oseh mi-mi she-eino metzuvveh ve-oseh."


[This sicha was delivered on leil Shabbat, Parashat Behe'alotekha 5763 (2003).]



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