Sunday, June 17, 2018

Behaalotecha

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Why is the section dealing with the Menorah placed next to the section dealing with [the dedication offerings of] the leaders?

Because when Aharon saw the dedication [offerings] of the leaders (above, ch. 7), he was dismayed that he was not included with them in the dedication, neither he nor his tribe. G?d said to him, “By your life! Your [act of dedication] is greater than theirs, for you will light and prepare the lamps [thereby dedicating them].”

Ramban: Rashi’s solution is difficult for me to fathom. For why should Aharon be consoled through the lighting of the Menorah, which was not the exclusive right of the High Priest? Surely, Aharon should have been consoled by a service which he alone was entitled to perform, such as the daily offering of incense, the High Priest’s meal-offering or the service of Yom Kippur?

Rather, it appears to me that the section regarding the Menorah follows the section concerning the dedication of the Altar as a hint to the rededication of the Menorah that occurred in the times of the second Temple, which we commemorate on Chanukah.

The construction of the Menorah was already detailed in Parshas Terumah.  Why is it repeated here (v. 4)?

Ramban: The Torah does not repeat all the details of the Menorah’s construction here.  Rather, only one requirement is repeated, that it must be “hammered work” from a single piece of metal (v. 4). The purpose of the repetition is to teach us that this law, that the Menorah must be made from a single piece of metal, is eternally binding and was not limited to the first Menorah that was made.

Why does verse 4 stress: “This is the construction method of the Menorah”?

Rashi: He had difficulty with [constructing] it, so G?d showed [an image of it to] him with His finger. That is why it says, “This is….”

“He constructed the Menorah…” (v. 4). Whom does this refer to?

Rashi: To the person who constructed it.

The Midrash teaches that G?d caused it to construct itself.

The Rebbe‘s Teachings

The Kindling of the Menorah (v. 1-4)

Rashi’s comments to verses 1-4 prompt the following questions:

a.) How would Rashi respond to the criticisms of Ramban, in verse 1?

b.) Ramban explains why the Torah repeats details of the construction of the Menorah in verse 4, being that this information was already given in Parshas Terumah (25:31-40). However, his solution is not hinted to at all by Rashi. What is Rashi’s own understanding of this matter, and why does he not offer an explanation?

c.) In his commentary to verse 4, Rashi cites the Midrashic teaching that G?d caused the Menorah to construct itself. Why did Rashi deem it necessary to alert the reader to this Midrash, and how is this consistent with Rashi’s stated goal, to explain scripture at the literal level?

The Explanation

In his commentary to verse 2, Rashi explains that the section dealing with the Menorah was recorded here after the dedication offerings (above, ch. 7) as an allusion to G?d’s consolation to Aharon, who was “dismayed that he did not join them in the dedication.” G?d consoled Aharon that through lighting the Menorah he would dedicate it for its holy use, and in this way he too would participate in the dedication activities.1

In addition to consoling Aharon that he would participate in dedicating part of the Tabernacle, G?d also stressed that Aharon’s dedication was greater than that of the other tribes, “By your life! Your [act of dedication] is greater than theirs, for you will light and prepare the lamps.”

But why was it greater to dedicate the Menorah than the Altar?

To answer this question, the Torah continues, in verse 4, to stress the unique quality of the Menorah, explaining why its dedication would be a greater honor. The verse states, “This is the construction method of the Menorah,” on which Rashi comments, “He had difficulty with [constructing] it, so G?d showed [an image of it to] him, with His finger. That is why it says, ‘This is….’” In other words, we see here the unique quality of the Menorah, that of all the vessels of the Tabernacle, the Menorah alone was shown to Moshe as a direct vision from G?d.2

In order to stress further the uniqueness of the Menorah (thus explaining  why its dedication would have fully consoled Aharon), Rashi adds that the words, “He constructed the Menorah,” refer to the Midrashic teaching that “G?d caused it to construct itself.” For this brings to light how privileged Aharon would have felt to dedicate the only item in the Tabernacle that was actually made by G?d.

However, since this appears to be a non-literal interpretation, Rashi first explains that the Menorah did not simply appear out of nowhere, without any human involvement, and that there was “a person who constructed it.”  Nevertheless, the Midrash clarifies that this person’s involvement was partial, since following only a small human effort, “G?d caused it to construct itself.” The reader will, of course, recall that this refers to Rashi’s earlier statement that the Menorah was made by casting a piece of gold into the fire, upon which G?d caused it to construct itself (Rashi to Shemos 25:31).

Why, though, does Rashi not tell us here exactly who it was who threw the gold into the fire—Moshe, or perhaps, Betzalel—being that that person is referred to by the verse, “He constructed the Menorah”? Why does Rashi avoid this issue and write, rather enigmatically, that this refers to “the person who constructed it?

The answer, simply, is that the current passage is coming to stress the honor that Aharon received in dedicating the Menorah, as explained above. Therefore, it would be inappropriate here for the Torah to stress the privilege that Moshe, or perhaps Betzalel, had in “constructing” the Menorah “together” with G?d, for this would detract from the Torah’s intention here, to honor Aharon. Rashi thus alerts us to this fact by writing that the Menorah was made by “the person who constructed it,” indicating that the Torah intentionally omitted any reference to the identity of this person, so as to accord the greatest honor to Aharon in the current passage.

(Based on Likutei Sichos vol. 38, p. 33ff.)

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