Shabbat Parashat Beha'alotcha| 5764
The Light of the Oral LawHarav Moshe Ehrenreich
Ohel Moed (The Tent of Meeting) was the place where Moshe received critical messages from Hashem on behalf of His nation, Israel. One is curious what the first such message was. According to the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 15:8) it was the commandment to Aharon to kindle the lights of the menorah.
Rashi says that the background of the message was that Hashem wanted to assure Aharon, who was disturbed by the fact that he had not taken part in the n’si’im’s (tribal heads) offerings. Hashem told him that his part, lighting and fixing the lights, was greater than theirs. It seems strange that this first message seems connected to human frailty instead of some eternal concept.
The Ramban asks why Aharon’s role in regard to the menorah was more stressed than regarding the sacrifices and incense. He suggests that it alludes to the historical role of Aharon’s descendents, the Hasmoneans. They restored the menorah’s use in their days and initiated the Chanukah lights, which continue shining even in the period when sacrifices have ceased. The question still begs why this historical idea was chosen as Hashem’s first message.
R. Tzadok of Lublin (Pri Tzadik, B’ha’alotcha 3) posits that Aharon’s kindling of the menorah hints to the power of the Oral Law, the light that shines through human intervention. It is the kohen’s role to disseminate the Oral Law, as the pasuk says, “For the lips of the kohen shall guard knowledge, and Torah shall they seek from his mouth” (Malachi 2:7). The message is prefaced by “daber el Aharon v’amarta.” Daber (speak) represents the power and vitality of the Written Law and amarta (saying) represents softer words (“my saying shall drip like dew,” Devarim 32:2). Moshe instilled in Aharon the power to kindle not only the literal, but also the figurative, light of the Torah. This power continued on spiritually even when the menorah’s use ceased and found expression in birkat kohanim (priestly blessing). “Hashem should bless you” - with an increase in the Oral Law with which every person is blessed, according to his level. “Hashem shall give you light” – for a mitzva is a candle and Torah is light. “Hashem shall give you peace” – this peace is also connected to Torah, about which it is said, “Hashem will give strength to His nation; Hashem will bless His nation with peace.” We find many Talmudic passages on how study of the Oral Law, while built on argument, should always bring love between the “combatants” (see Yevamot 14b, Kiddushin 30b).
Ibn Ezra explains that the connection between the ideas of the p’sukim teaches us that Hashem’s speech will be even at night (when the menorah was lit). But the Ramban proves that Hashem spoke to Moshe specifically in the day? We can justify Ibn Ezra’s approach based on the midrash that Moshe would learn from Hashem in the day and review the learning in the Ohel Moed at night. That review, with all that came with it, epitomized the Oral Law, giving significance to Hashem’s word through the night.
The first message in Ohel Moed teaches the importance of toil in Torah study. That idea enabled the Hasmoneans to create a holiday (see S’fat Emet) and maintained generations of Jews, who were missing the menorah’s light.
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