Chazal (Midrash Tanchuma) teach that Moshe Rabbeinu had difficulty visualizing the completed Menorah. Hashem showed him a Menorah of fire. Moshe still had difficulty in making it. Hashem then instructed Moshe to hurl an ingot of gold into the fire – and a completed Menorah emerged. This Midrash is laden with commentary addressing Moshe’s difficulty, in as much as we only find two other places in the Torah in which Moshe experienced difficulty understanding Hashem’s command. Obviously, the idea of a Menorah fashioned of fire has a profound message.
I came across an inspiring story concerning Chanukah which I think might illuminate for us what about the Menorah presented Moshe with such difficulty. The Meiri writes: “Whoever is cautious with the candles, lighting them with love and inspiration, will be granted children talmidei chachamim, Torah scholars.” The blessing for good children goes hand-in-hand with the performance of the mitzvah derech chibuv v’hearah m’forsemes, “with love, enthusiasm and joy.” We will soon see that this blessing applies not only to neiros Chanukah, the Chanukah candles, but equally to Shabbos candles. Horav Elimelech Biderman, Shlita, adds, that in addition to granting children who will be scholars, Chanukah and Shabbos candle – lighting with love and inspiration has the potential to shine the light of emunah, faith, and yiraas Shomayim, fear of Heaven, in one’s children.
Now, for the story and the correlative lesson that is derived from it. A woman approached the Baal Yesod HoAvodah, zl, Horav Avraham Weinberg of Slonim, and pleaded for help concerning her daughter: “My daughter has gone off the derech, left the path of religious observance. She has recently run away. I do not know what to do. I am so distressed.” The Slonimer asked her, “Do you have a garment that belongs to your daughter?”
“Yes, we do,” she replied.
“I suggest that you should take this garment, cut it up in strips and make wicks from it. Use these wicks to kindle the Shabbos candles.”
The woman did exactly as the Rebbe had instructed, and, in the middle of the Shabbos meal, their daughter returned home. She asserted that she had acted foolishly and now wanted to do teshuvah, repent. Mother and daughter embraced in immense love. The Shabbos candles had brought her around.
In his Bais Avraham, the Slonimer adds that this is implied in the brachos, blessings, L’hadlik ner shel Shabbos, L’hadlik ner shel Chanukah. The word l’hadlik, “to light,” does not only mean to light the candles of either Shabbos or Chanukah; it also means to ignite the fire of Yiddishkeit in people’s hearts.
Having said this, we now return to the Menorah which our quintessential leader and Rebbe had difficulty visualizing. Moshe’s quandary was not about the Menorah’s design. His perplexity concerned the Menorah’s function as a vehicle for igniting the hearts and minds of the Jewish people. How does one inspire, how does one arouse, awaken a cold heart, a turned – off mind? Hashem replied, “With fire!” The Rebbe who inspires with passion, with a burning zeal for Yiddishkeit, ignites the heart and mind of even the most dispassionate, closed-minded Jew. One cannot kindle a candle without a match. Likewise, one cannot enkindle, stimulate a lost Jew, unless he himself is aflame with emunah in Hashem. Could this lesson not have been derived without throwing an entire ingot of gold into the fire? Hashem could have shown Moshe a flaming Menorah, and Moshe could have constructed the pieces and attached them. Hashem was teaching Moshe a fundamental lesson in outreach. The rebbe/outreach expert/imbuer of Torah must himself be centrally infused, synchronized, totally balanced throughout. He cannot be an individual who is “mostly” committed, dealing with his own spiritual challenges and exigencies. Fractional emunah begets disjointed commitment. Such a person will produce students whose devotion is equally fragmented.