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Speak to Aaron and say to him when you kindle the lamps, toward the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps cast light. (Bamidbar 8:2)
In this week’s parsha we learn how Aaron was instructed to kindle the menorah. Rashi explains why this command is juxtaposed to the princes’ inaugural offerings of the previous parsha. When Aaron saw that he and his tribe did not participate in the inauguration of the mishkan his heart grew faint. Hashem consoled him by telling him that his portion would be greater than theirs because he would kindle the menorah. The commentators explain that the kindling of the menorah is considered “greater” because it is an actual service in the mishkan, whereas the inaugural offerings merely preceded the actual service.
Let us suggest another reason as to why the kindling of the menorah is considered greater then the inaugural offerings.
The service of kindling the menorah is broken up into two parts. The first part is called “hatavaas ha’nai’ros,” the preparation of the lamps. The second part is called the “hadlakas ha’nai’ros,” the kindling of the lamps. The hatavah service involves removing the residual ash and wicks from yesterday, and adding new oil and wicks in preparation for the new day. Chazal tell us that the hatavah is a more sacred service then the actual kindling, for only a Kohen may perform the hatavah, whereas anyone, even an ordinary Yisrael may perform the kindling.
We may note that the nature of the hatavah is to connect the previous day to the present day. The residual ash and wick are the remainders of yesterday’s service. The new wick and oil is part of today’s service. This single service of removing the old and preparing for the new is symbolic of connecting the service of yesterday to today. With regard to no other service in the mishkan and mikdash do we find one that connects the past to the future. Each service begins fresh each day with no connection to what came before. The hatavah service is symbolic of our ability to serve Hashem by building upon the past and not just serve Hashem by serving him again and again. Parenthetically, we may note that the menorah is symbolic of the Torah study. This indicates that the ability to build upon the past is possible only if combined with Torah study.
Everyday, as part of the daily morning blessings we recite two blessings in honor of the Torah. The first blessing is “la’asok bidivrei torah.” The second blessing is “asher bachar banu.” The commentators offer many reasons as to why we recite two blessings. Let us present a few of them. One approach takes note that there are two parts to the Torah, the written Torah and the oral Torah. The two blessings simply correspond to the written and oral Torah. Another approach notes that all our blessings may be broken up into two categories. One category covers all the blessings that are recited before the performance of mitzvos. The second category covers all the blessings that are recited before deriving pleasure from this world. These two categories usually do not overlap. The study of Torah is unique in that it fits into both categories. We have a mitzvah to study Torah and we also derive pleasure from its study, therefore we recite two blessings, one for each category. A third reason is offered by the Levush. He explains that with regard to food we recite two blessings. One blessing is recited before we eat and a second blessing after we eat. Similarly, the first blessing we recite on the Torah in the morning is the end blessing for yesterday’s study of Torah. The second blessing is the new blessing for today’s study of Torah.
Let us suggest another reason. As mentioned above the kindling of the menorah is symbolic of studying and teaching Torah. We also mentioned that the service of the menorah may be broken down into two parts, the hatavah and the kindling. We may suggest the first blessing we recite over Torah corresponds to the hatavah. The essence of the hatavah is to connect the service of yesterday to today, the past to the future. This is indeed the theme of the first blessing. After the main text of the blessing we continue to pray that the words of Torah be sweet in our mouth and not depart from our children, grandchildren and all future descendents. We empasize that it is our wish that the Torah be transmitted from generation to generation without a break. We pray for that connection, similar to the connection the hatavah provides. The second blessing is then recited to correspond to the actual kindling of the menorah, the Torah we plan to study and fulfill on this day.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2004