May 29th, 2021: Parashat Beha’Alotcha – Let Your Light Shine!

As we have been announcing in our posts, we have added an exciting new element to the Parashat for each week: An AUDIO PODCAST, to accompany the notes!

Check out the NEW PODCAST SECTION of the website HERE.

Click on the play button and follow along, with the notes below, as you listen to today's Parashat:

This week’s parashat opens up with Hashem speaking these words to Moses:

דַּבֵּר֙ אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֔ן וְאָמַרְתָּ֖ אֵלָ֑יו בְּהַעֲלֹֽתְךָ֙ אֶת־הַנֵּרֹ֔ת אֶל־מוּל֙ פְּנֵ֣י הַמְּנוֹרָ֔ה יָאִ֖ירוּ שִׁבְעַ֥ת הַנֵּרֽוֹת׃

“Speak to Aaron and say to him: ‘When you kindle [literally, “raise”] the lamps, toward the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps cast light.’” (Numbers 8:2)

This was followed by Aaron’s action in fulfilling this obligation:

וַיַּ֤עַשׂ כֵּן֙ אַהֲרֹ֔ן אֶל־מוּל֙ פְּנֵ֣י הַמְּנוֹרָ֔ה הֶעֱלָ֖ה נֵרֹתֶ֑יהָ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה יְהוָ֖ה אֶת־מֹשֶֽׁה׃

“Aaron did so; toward the face of the Menorah he kindled [“raised”] its lamps, as Hashem had commanded Moses.” (Numbers 8:3)

We then read:

וְזֶ֨ה מַעֲשֵׂ֤ה הַמְּנֹרָה֙ מִקְשָׁ֣ה זָהָ֔ב עַד־יְרֵכָ֥הּ עַד־פִּרְחָ֖הּ מִקְשָׁ֣ה הִ֑וא כַּמַּרְאֶ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר הֶרְאָ֤ה יְהוָה֙ אֶת־מֹשֶׁ֔ה כֵּ֥ן עָשָׂ֖ה אֶת־הַמְּנֹרָֽה׃ פ

“And this is the workmanship of the Menorah, beaten out of gold, to its base, to its flower, it is beaten out; according to the image that Hashem showed Moses, so did he make the Menorah.” (Numbers 8:4)

It is interesting that we are reading about the workmanship of the Menorah for a third time in the Torah – first in Parashat Terumah (Exodus 25:31-37) when Hashem gave the instructions to Moses on how to construct and light the Menorah, and second in Parashat Vayakhel (Exodus 37:17-24) when Bezalel constructed it, and a third time here in Numbers 8:4. Why reiterate the workmanship of the Menorah a third time?

Before we answer that, let’s go back to the prior two verses first (Numbers 8:2-3) where the focus was on the service of kindling the Menorah. This is the second time we find this instruction. We find the first one given by Hashem in Exodus 25:

וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ אֶת־נֵרֹתֶ֖יהָ שִׁבְעָ֑ה וְהֶֽעֱלָה֙ אֶת־נֵ֣רֹתֶ֔יהָ וְהֵאִ֖יר עַל־עֵ֥בֶר פָּנֶֽיהָ׃

You will make its lamps seven; he shall kindle its lamps, and it will cast light in the direction of its face.” (Exodus 25:37)

Why reiterate the kindling of the lamp twice?

In both cases – the workmanship and the kindling of the lamps – the two processes involved separate individuals from the Nation of Israel following all of Hashem’s instructions to a “T”. Nothing in the plans changed, and nothing in the service was altered as it says that “Aaron did so” in Numbers 8:3.

What is so important about the Menorah? Why mention it three times thus far in the Torah and stress the point that its design and service were done with absolute uncompromising action?

Let’s start by looking at the design of the Menorah:

The Menorah was constructed [“hammered”] out of a single kikar of pure gold, featuring 7 branches in total, with 3 branches to the left and right connecting into a central branch. It also featured decorative goblets, knobs and flowers as part of its design. This was no small candelabra – it stood approximately 6’ in height. Atop each of the 7 branches were 7 lamps, or cups that held the oil for illumination. The Menorah is commonly believed to have been positioned along the south wall of the Tabernacle (Mishkan), with its 3 west branches facing the Ark (and the Curtain), and the 3 east branches facing the entrance.

When Aaron (and the Kohanim) would kindle the lamps, they would step up on a platform, remove the old wick from any lamp that had gone out including leftover oil, wipe the inside of the lamp, refill the oil, and light the lamp anew from an adjacent lit lamp.

What was the Menorah for? The usual and obvious function of a lamp is to illuminate a room, but did Hashem need the light of the Menorah’s seven lamps in the Mishkan? Absolutely not!

When the lamps were kindled, they were to cast their light in the direction of the “face” of the Menorah. The “face” here refers to the central branch (called the יֶרֶךְ “yerech”). Therefore, the wicks in each of the six lamps were positioned to face toward the central lamp.

To best understand the purpose of the Menorah, let’s briefly overview its position in the Mishkan. To the west of the Menorah was the Ark, concealed behind the Curtain, and housing the complete Tablets and (eventually) the Torah scroll written by Moses. To the north of the Menorah was the Table of Showbread, which held 12 freshly baked “Bread of Faces” each week. The Menorah stood parallel with the Ark casting its light towards the Table of Showbread.

This layout is a microcosm of the concealed and revealed worlds of Creation – Hashem’s primordial light is concealed from us. The Table housing the Bread of Faces represents the materiality of this world. And the Menorah represents the revelation of Hashem’s Divine Illumination, His Shechinah, His Ruach HaKodesh in the revealed world.

Why 7 lamps? One interpretation is written by Or HaChaim: “The Menorah with its 7 lamps alludes to the nations of the world which amount to 70 nations [as at the Tower of Babel]. Each one lamp represents a unit of ten [like a minyan] (this is why King Solomon expanded on this idea by constructing 10 additional Menorahs in the First Temple). By having their flames point toward the middle, it alludes to the fact that all the nations direct their light toward the central lamp, which represents the Jewish people. The light that is kindled for the other lamps – representing the other nations – symbolizes the material blessing that Hashem gives those nations. They in turn should be directing their light toward the Jewish people – using their resources to support the mission of the Jewish people to bring the Glory of Hashem to the world.”

Let’s return back to the namesake of the parashat, to the word בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ (“beha’alotcha”). The word literally means “when you raise”, which has a much different connotation than “kindle”. It is so much more than just lighting a lamp… it is lighting the lamp with the intent of elevation. Rashi comments: “Because the flame rises, Scripture writes of their kindling as an expression of "rising", for one must kindle (hold a fire to the wick) until the flame rises by itself.

What is being spoken about here has to do with the arranging of the lamps rather than just the mere act of lighting the lamps. All of the work involved with the Menorah – cleaning and reassembling the lamps anew and lighting them was as if Aaron was effectively performing a new construction daily, as if the Menorah was being rebuilt anew each day (Or HaChaim).

There is a beautiful Midrash to sum this all up (Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar Beha’alotcha 15:5): ‘This is what Scripture states elsewhere, "for it is You Who will light my lamp” (Psalm 18:29). Israel said before the Holy One Blessed be He, when they were commanded to kindle the Menorah, "Master of the Universe! You tell us to shine a light before You? Why, You have no need for our light, for You are the light of the world, and the light dwells with You, as it is written, ‘light dwells with Him’ (Daniel 2:22). And furthermore, You Yourself say to us, ‘When you kindle the lamps, toward the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps cast light.’” Thus Scripture quotes Israel saying to God, "For it is You Who will light my lamp." The Holy One Blessed be He, responded to Israel, "It is not that I need you to kindle the lamps for My benefit, but rather that you should provide light for Me the same way I provided light for you in the Wilderness. Why should you do so? To raise you up before the nations of the world, for they will say, 'See how Israel provides light for the One Who provides light for the entire world.’"

Putting it all together, the Menorah is a microcosm of the ideal “us” – “us” living a holy and consecrated life before Hashem – filled with Divine Illumination, with Ruach HaKodesh – so long as we focus our attention intently on our Heavenly Father who remains concealed from us in this world. Who is the best reflection of the ideal “us”? Or to borrow from what Or HaChaim spoke on above – why do the 6 lamps point their flames toward the central lamp? It is the tzaddik, the righteous one to whom we can connect to. Who is our great tzaddik? None other than Yeshua HaMashiach.

בָּנַי הִנְנִי כֹתֵב אֲלֵיכֶם אֶת־הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה לְבִלְתִּי תֶחֱטָאוּ וְאִם־יֶחֱטָא

אִישׁ יֶשׁ־לָנוּ לִפְנֵי אָבִינוּ מֵלִיץ יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ הַצַּדִּיק׃

We have a mediator with the Father, Yeshua HaMashiach, the tzaddik.” (1 John 2:1)

As Yeshua said in John 8:

אֲנִי אוֹר הָעוֹלָם כָּל־הַהֹלֵךְ אַחֲרַי לֹא יִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּחֲשֵׁכָה כִּי־אוֹר הַחַיִּים יִהְיֶה־לּוֹ׃

I am the light of the world: anyone who follows me will not walk in darkness, for he will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

And in Matthew 5:

אַתֶּם אוֹרוֹ שֶׁל־עוֹלָם עִיר יֹשֶׁבֶת עַל־הָהָר לֹא תִסָּתֵר׃

גַּם אֵין מַדְלִיקִים נֵר לָשׂוֹּם אוֹתוֹ תַּחַת הָאֵיפָה כִּי אִם־עַל־הַמְּנוֹרָה לְהָאִיר לְכָל־אֲשֶׁר בַּבָּיִת׃

כֵּן יָאֵר אוֹרְכֶם לִפְנֵי בְּנֵי הָאָדָם לְמַעַן יִרְאוּ מַעֲשֵֹׂיכֶם הַטּוֹבִים וְשִׁבְּחוּ אֶת־אֲבִיכֶם שֶׁבַּשָׁמָיִם׃

You are the light of the world. A city that sits on the mountain will not be hidden. Nor do people kindle a lamp just to put it under the bushel measure, but on the Menorah, to illuminate all who are in the house. So also, shine your light before sons of men, so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father who is in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Yeshua is the one we need to replicate. He is the one that takes us through the Curtain, through the barrier of concealment, to Hashem.

In the Haftarah reading (Zechariah 2:14-4:7), we get a glimpse through Zechariah’s vision, of what the perfect Menorah looks like, a prophecy of the Final Redemption.

This perfect Menorah has no need for a Kohen to service the wicks, clean the lamps, refill the oil in the lamps, or light the lamps. Zechariah sees a bowl above the Menorah that provides a continual flow of oil to the lamps. To either side of the Menorah stand two olive trees, the source of the fresh oil for illumination.

Remember back at the start of Parashat Tetzaveh: “And you will command the Children of Israel that they shall take for you clear olive oil, crushed, for illumination, to light a lamp continually.” (Exodus 27:20) The production of oil for illumination by the people was an extremely labour-intensive process and speaks to the effort we must employ in our lives to elevate ourselves, to draw closer to Hashem through our constant focus on our tzaddik, on Yeshua HaMashiach. Remember Numbers 8:4? “And this is the workmanship of the Menorah, beaten out of gold, to its base, to its flower, it is beaten out; according to the image that Hashem showed Moses, so did he make the Menorah.” The entire Menorah was “beaten” out of a single kikar of gold, according to the design of Hashem. As it says in Ephesian 2:

כִּי־פֹעַל אֱלֹהִים אֲנַחְנוּ נִבְרָאִים בַּמָּשִׁיחַ יֵשׁוּעַ לְמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים אֲשֶׁר הֵכִין הָאֱלֹהִים מִקֶּדֶם לְמַעַן נִתְהַלֵּךְ בָּהֶם׃

For God made us as creations likened to Yeshua HaMashiach for good works, which God established beforehand, in order that we may walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

If we desire to become perfected according to the design of Hashem, we must “beat” ourselves daily – or as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:31: “I die daily” to replicate our tzaddik Yeshua HaMashiach.

As we toil each day in this world, we must fix our eyes on the central lamp of the Menorah – we must fix our eyes on our great tzaddik, Yeshua HaMashiach, who draws us closer to Hashem. Only then may we draw closer to our Father in Heaven. May we produce pure oil and keep our lamps clean, well-stocked with oil, and lit and elevating brightly for His Kingdom, Glory and Honour.

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