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“And they shall take for you pure olive oil… to cause a lamp to burn continually.” (27:20)

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In the Talmud Shabbos 22b, Chazal state that the Ner Ma’aravi, western lamp, which miraculously continued to burn, attested universally to Hashem’s presence among Bnei Yisrael. This is enigmatic. The menorah was situated in the Mishkan and later in the Bais Ha’Mikdash. These were places in which no Yisrael — and surely no gentile — was permitted to enter. If so, how did the western lamp serve as testimony to confirm Hashem’s presence among Klal Yisrael to the world?

Horav Yitzchak Hutner z.l., asserts that the Ner Ma’aravi inspired Bnei Yisrael to be cognizant that the Shechinah reposed among them.  Even if they did not actually see the light burning, they were aware of its constant flame. This awareness catalyzed a heightened spiritual response from Bnei Yisrael.  The knowledge and consciousness that the Ner Ma’aravi burned within the Mishkan was sufficient evidence of Hashem’s presence. When Bnei Yisrael’s behavior is spiritually correct, this feeling manifests itself throughout the world.  One only has to see the spiritual elevation exhibited by Bnei Yisrael in order to recognize Hashem’s presence.

Horav Hutner used this exposition to calm a number of well- meaning lay leaders who petitioned him to make changes in the sidrei ha’yeshiva, yeshiva schedule, in order to impress potential donors who would visit.  Horav Hutner felt that this sort of “propaganda” was not only ethically improper, but it was also unnecessary. If the yeshiva was internally solid, if the Torah study within the walls of the Bais Ha’midrash was exemplary and uninterrupted, people on the outside would hear about it. The only way to truly impress others with one’s spiritual or educational superiority is to actually earn that distinction.

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