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“When you kindle the lamps.” (8:2)

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The parsha begins with the section which deals with the maintenance of the menorah. It follows immediately after the conclusion of Parashas Naso, which is concerned with the dedication of the mizbei’ach. Chazal address the juxtaposition of these two topics. They remark that upon witnessing the ceremonial activities and involvement of the nesiim in the altar’s dedication, Aharon Ha’Kohen became pained by his own and his shevet’s exclusion from them. Hashem responded to this concern by emphasizing Aharon’s unique opportunity to prepare and kindle the menorah.

The Ramban notes the difficulty inherent in this statement. Aharon had the responsibility for other acts of service, no less important than the maintenance of the menorah, such as offering the korbanos. Why is the menorah service singled out as Aharon’s compensation for his lack of involvement in the dedication of the mizbei’ach ? Indeed, Chazal allude to this when they add that although Aharon was also granted the distinction of offering the korbanos on the mizbe’ach, this privilege extended only as long as the Bais Ha’Mikdash was in existence. Even though the menorah was no longer kindled after the destruction of the Bais Ha’Mikdash, its spirit lasts forever. This interpretation still begs elucidation, for, does not the spirit of the sacrifices also continue to be with us ?

In examining the text of the Midrash, Horav Shlomo Breuer, z.l., notes the emphasis Chazal place upon the active role the nesiim played in the dedication of the altar as the source of Aharon’s distress. Truly there is no other place in the Torah where such remarkable honor is conferred upon the nesiim. What was unique about their material gifts that distinguished them? Material wealth is a wonderful gift from Hashem — if one knows how to appreciate and perform his obligations resulting from this gift. One should engender within himself an understanding that material gifts are to be consecrated by dedicating them toward the greater spiritual good and in service to the Almighty.

The nesiim’s approach to Hashem’s altar was one of subservience, solemnly dedicating to place all of their possessions in the service of Hashem. Each nasi uniquely understood his own individual responsibilities and how to appropriate his material wealth toward the successful realization of his G-d-given mandate. In reading the chapter about the nesiim’s gifts, we should be conscious of how great is of the unique Jewish deed, which assumes pre-eminence when the material is consecrated toward its higher spiritual goal.

Specifically in this manner, a display of “Jewish money” was dedicated toward the inauguration of the mizbei’ach. The mundane and material was sublimated and hallowed, so that sanctity was bestowed upon the altar. Only one tribe was not to contribute personally to this lofty endeavor. One tribe would remain a spectator, while the other tribes would be active participants — because the members of this tribe were poor, receiving their sustenance from the members of the other tribes. Shevet Levi with its prince, Aharon Ha’Kohen, had but one earthly possession — the Torah.  Being privy to the spectacular display of material wealth being consecrated l’shem shomayim, for the sake of Heaven, brought to Aharon’s mind the stark realization that he was excluded from such an endeavor, because of his lack of material wealth. He was apparently not resentful, however, because of his lack of material possessions.

Hashem comforted Aharon with the words ovkan vkusd lka, “Your share is greater than theirs.”  The light of the menorah, which is a metaphor for the light of the Torah, endures. It outlasts the Bais Ha’Mikdash, its appurtenances and religious service. The precious good to which you, Aharon, devote yourself will ultimately be the only everlasting possession of Klal Yisrael. We did not always have material wealth with which to pay homage to Hashem. Exiled from place to place, living as beggars, we suffered pain and deprivation, but we always have had the eternal Torah which imbued us with a sense of pride and dignity.

The Torah is our sole remaining treasure and only real possession. This precious gift, its maintenance, and continued dissemination are entrusted to Aharon, his shevet and their surrogates, bnei Torah who devote their lives to its study and institutions.  The constant awareness of this trust and privilege should be the prime source of satisfaction for Aharon and his descendants. They have been empowered with the extra-ordinary opportunity of disseminating the treasure of the Jewish people, its heritage and tradition. This task should imbue each of them with a feeling of fulfillment, a sense of accomplishment, and, above all, an appreciation of their mission in life. This sense of achievement is reflected in the pride experienced with the successful observance of the mitzvah of Torah study and the acceptance of the responsibility for disseminating it to others.  As in any endeavor, success breeds pride, and pride breeds success!