The Menorah and Shabbos Candles

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By Rabbi Naftoly Bier

This week’s portion starts off, “ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל, and you should command the children of Israel… to keep the lamp burning constantly.” It is the mitzvah of lighting the מנורה, Menorah on a daily basis in the משכן, Tabernacle, and subsequently the בית המקדש.

The בעל הטורים directs our attention to the word, “תצוה”, “you should command”, which could have been written, “צוה”, “to command” (the imperative), for it already says “ואתה”, “and you will” … The lesson that the Torah is imparting is that the letter “ת” and “נשים”, “women” have the same גמטריא, numerical value – 400.  Not only is there a “candle lighting” to be done in the Tabernacle, Holy Temple but so too, every Friday before the onset of Shabbos women should kindle candles for the Shabbos. What could be the connection between the two distinctly different lightings?

שלמה המלך in Proverbs 1:8 teaches: “שמע בני מוסר אביך ואל תטוש תורת אמך”, “My son, heed the discipline of your father, and do not forsake the instructions of your mother.”

The נצי”ב, Deuteronomy 21:18 explains that the father is the one who teaches the mitzvos, objectives laid out in the Torah, while the mother trains a child to act with proper דרך ארץ, to develop a fine, sensitive, caring and responsible personality. A son who doesn’t heed his parents (בן סורר ומורה) is one who turns away from his father’s teaching of Torah and is מורה, defiant to his mother. (The אבן עזרא and אלשיך have similar interpretations.)

In the משכן, Tabernacle there were two objects that represented the Torah; the ארון, Ark and the מנורה, the Candelabrum. The Ark contained the Torah and the Tablets, while the Menorah was the symbol of wisdom being “lit” in one’s being. While the Torah is factual and irrevocable and clearly defined, what is termed, גמרא, is the honest, intellectual process of determining how to proceed in specific situations. (מנורה)

At first glance it’s difficult to comprehend why Hashem asks us to illuminate His Sanctuary; He doesn’t need light!? The Medrash explains with the metaphor: a blind man is walking in the street, a kind person helps him navigate his way. The kind-hearted person escorts him to his home. Upon arriving he immediately directs him to the lighting apparatus and requests the blind person to provide all with lighting, “so you should no longer feel obligated to me for accompanying you.” In the same manner we are benefacted by Hashem, with infinite gifts including light. Hashem in His inimitable, boundless kindness and compassion is expressing to us; “I don’t need your light but I am endowing you with the merit to also provide light for Me.”

The Medrash expounds; “For the eyes of Hashem range over the entire Earth to give support to those who wholeheartedly support Him…” (דברי הימים ב’ ט”ז:ט).

The blind person refers to Klal Yisroel as it is written in ישעיה, Isaiah 59:10, “We grope like blind men along the wall, like those without eyes we grope, we stumble at noon as if in darkness…” The last words refer to the terrible incident of the עגל הזהב, the Golden Calf which was erected at the sixth hour of the day. When Moshe Rabeinu was commanded to “bring olive oil for the Menorah”, the Jewish people were astounded. You Hashem light our light, and you say we should light for You?! Answered Hashem, Yes I want to elevate you, to inspire you to not feel indebted to Me.

When one studies the Medrash, one can ask why is it necessary to add the idea of the Golden Calf; wouldn’t Klal Yisroel be perplexed why they should light or produce light for Hashem?

It is possible that if the דור דעה, that holy generation, the greatest of our history had not forfeited their sublime greatness, they would understand that G-d would exhort them to produce light for Him, due to their unmitigated, flawless dedication to Him. But once they sinned, and nevertheless G-d is providing all their needs, how can we light for Him, we don’t deserve what He bequeaths to us; it’s a charade to light for Him!

Hashem was teaching us His infinite love despite our tragic mistake. He is always with us, for we are His dearest entity in the world. Yes, I want you to light for Me, I want you to understand that don’t be overwhelmed by my Holiness, rather recognize my intense feelings for you.

Every Friday before Shabbos, the women who, as aforementioned, are the teachers of אמונה, Hashem’s love for us and to emulate Hashem by developing character akin to Him, they usher in the special day of Shabbos.

Hashem created the human with a struggle between a life of selflessness, spirituality, dedication to others or one of self-centeredness, seeking glory, hedonism and materialism. Shabbos, He gifted us with a dynamic wherein the latter inclination is mitigated and nullified if we allow it to happen! It is a manifestation of Hashem’s incredible love that He gifted us a day – Shabbos – when we can honestly behold our true mission without the tension of the יצר הרע.

Due to the natural אמונה, the sense of being embraced by Hashem due to the innate selflessness a woman has, Hashem instructed the women to light candles for Shabbos, ushering in this metaphysical gift of being embraced by Him. This heightened sensitivity allows one to truly sublimate all that is physical (food, wine, etc.) as a means of being encircled by Hashem. Both lightings represent His infinite love.


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