Rashi addresses the juxtaposition of the parshah of the Menorah upon the conclusion of the previous parsha, which details the korbanos, offerings, of the Nesiim for the chanukas ha’Mizbayach. When Aharon took note of the involvement of the Nesiim in the dedication of the Mizbayach, he became chagrined that neither he nor any members of his tribe, Shevet Levi, had been included. We must remember that envy is not a word that could ever apply to someone of the caliber of Aharon HaKohen. His spiritual stature obviated any possibility of attributing such a term to him. He was not jealous; he simply desired to play a role in the sacred inauguration. He did not have to have it all; he felt bad when he missed any opportunity to glorify Hashem.
The Almighty knew the source of Aharon’s discomfiture. He calmed him saying, “Yours is greater than theirs, for you will light the Menorah.” Ramban explains that the Mishkan/Bais HaMikdash will not be around forever, and, with its loss, we will also be left bereft of the Mizbayach. With no Mizbayach, there can be no korbanos. The Menorah will be supplanted, however, by the neiros Chanukah, the lighting of the Chanukah Menorah, commemorating the Chanukah miracle, which will continue to inspire Klal Yisrael until the advent of Moshiach Tziddkeinu.
Thus, Aharon’s feelings were mollified. Was Aharon really troubled over the korbanos brought by the Nesiim, or was it the fact that the Nesiim were selected over the Leviim for this sacred service? The Mekor Baruch, zl, of Seret Vishnitz explains that Aharon was aggrieved that no member of his tribe was included. It was not a negative reason, but as far as Aharon was concerned, it weighed heavily upon him. Who were the Nesiim, and why were they chosen for this prestigious position? These were the shotrei Bnei Yisrael, guards, whom Pharaoh had appointed as taskmasters over their brothers. It is regarding them that the Torah relates: “The guards of Bnei Yisrael were beaten.”
Rashi explains that these guards were Jews who had pity on their oppressed brothers who slaved for Pharaoh. They refused to pressure the Jews. Thus, when they would turn over the bricks to the Egyptian taskmasters and something was missing from the quota (which their Jewish brothers did not supply), the Egyptian taskmasters took out their anger on the Jewish guards, saying that had (they) pressured the Jews more, the quota would have been achieved. Because of this, the guards were found worthy of becoming members of the Sanhedrin and the seventy elders. The Nesiim were selected for this distinction because they suffered beatings on behalf of their brethren. Aharon wished that he, too, could/would have similarly suffered for them. In other words, it was not the function of lighting the Menorah that troubled Aharon; rather, he was disturbed by the fact that because he and his tribe had not been included in the Egyptian slave labor, they did not have the avenue for mesiras nefesh.
Aharon was the consummate ohaiv Yisrael. How could he not have been present for his brethren? Shevet Levi’s function was to learn 24/7. Therefore, the opportunity for mesiras nefesh did not avail itself for them. Hashem comforted Aharon that his portion would be greater, because his descendants, the Chashmonaim, would sacrifice for Klal Yisrael and be the vehicle for the Chanukah miracle. It was not about korbanos versus candle lighting – Mizbayach versus Menorah, but rather, about two forms of mesiras nefesh: that of the Nesiim aka Shotrei Yisrael, and the Chashmonaim. In any event, we should derive from this spiritual dialogue between Aharon and Hashem that which concerned Klal Yisrael’s first Kohen Gadol: How much more mesiras nefesh can I have?!