TORAH TUESDAYS: PARSHAT BEHA'ALOTCHA
BY HENNIE BLACK
In this week’s Torah portion of BEHA’ALOTCHA, WE ARE TOLD THAT AARON LIT THE MENORAH “EXACTLY AS HE WAS TOLD TO DO.”
iS THAT REALLY SUCH A BIG DEAL?
READ ON TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW AARON ELEVATED THE MITZVAH OF LIGHTING THE MENORAH TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL, earning him the praise that he deservedly received.
In this week’s parsha is Beha’alotcha, Aaron is given the task of lighting the Menorah.
It was a simple job, yet the Torah emphasizes that Aaron did exactly was he was told to do: “And Aaron did so; toward the face of the Menorah he kindled its lamps, as Hashem had commanded Moshe.”
Rashi comments that the words “and Aaron did so” come to sing Aaron’s praises in that Aaron did exactly what he was supposed to do.
What’s the big deal? The instructions for lighting the menorah were not that difficult. The praise worthiness is not so much related to completing the action accurately but in the manner in which Aaron completed the action; that is, our commentators tells us that Aaron did exactly what he was told to do with the same level of excitement and enthusiasm each and every day.
It is easy to be enthusiastic when we take on a new project, but to keep our enthusiasm going when the excitement wears off is much more difficult. We all have visions and dreams when starting something new, but how long does that last?Complacency is dangerous and does not allow us to live up to our full potential. Aaron was different—for 39 years, he lit the menorah each and every day, with the same vigor as if it was his first time doing so.
All Aaron had to do was fix and light the wicks. This routine could have descended into a rote, absent-minded action, but Aaron did the mitzvah with great attention and focus. One way to break the monotony of a repeated action is to change things up. Yet, Aaron never went this route; he removed his desires, his ego and did exactly as G-d had commanded him to do without putting his own spin on it.
In spite of the challenge, Aaron brought the same kavanah (intention) to the mitzvah each time. Aaron is the role model for teaching us to have passion and enthusiasm in all that we do.
There is a famous anecdote of a man whose job it was to wave a lantern and direct the trains at a crossroad. One night a major crash and derailment occurred. The man was brought to court to determine whether/not he was at fault for the major crash.
The judge inquired, “Young man, were you by the tracks Monday night at 10:00 pm?”
“Yes, your honour,” he replied.
“Did you see the oncoming train?”
“Yes, your honour.”
“Did you wave the lantern?”
“Yes, your honour.”
Hearing this, the judge brought down his gavel and declared the man innocent. “Case dismissed.”
Upon leaving the courtroom, the man was very shaken up. Others approached him and said, “You’re innocent! What is wrong? Why are you so distressed?”
The man answered, “I don’t know what I would have answered if he asked me if my lantern was lit.”
Waving a lantern without the light inside is meaningless! We must ask ourselves each and every day if our lantern is lit. Are we just going through the motions or do we have passion and enthusiasm in what we do?
In the Shema prayer which we recite twice daily, we say “May these words that I command you today, be upon your hearts.” What does it mean that G-d is commanding us “today”? The word “today” suggests that we approach each and every day as a new day—a day filled with excitement and enthusiasm.
The light that came from the menorah was more than just a physical light. The purpose of the flame was to light the spiritual flame inside each and every Jew. Proverbs teaches us that “the soul of man is G-d’s candle.” G-d does not need our light, but He offers us the opportunity to shine our light each day anew.
We must remember that the task of Aaron was to light the Menorah each and every day. It wasn’t a job of great fanfare and fame, but rather a job of consistent goodness and holiness. It was a job of renewed passion and enthusiasm each and every day. It is up to us to light our own spiritual flames each day with passion and enthusiasm, and by doing so may we bring more light into the world.