Lamps and Flames

“…Speak to Aharon and say to him, “When you ignite the lamps, the seven lamps shall cast their light toward the face of the menorah…” – Bamidbar 8:2

דַּבֵּר אֶל אַהֲרֹן וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ אֶת הַנֵּרֹת אֶל מוּל פְּנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה יָאִירוּ שִׁבְעַת הַנֵּרוֹת – במדבר ח, ב

The Talmud regards the menorah as a symbol of Torah study. Hence, our Sages taught, “One who wants to become wise should turn to the south [when praying]… Your sign for this is… the menorah stood to the south [in the Mishkan]” (Bava Basra 25b). Why then did G-d command Aharon to kindle the menorah, and not Moshe, through whom the Torah was given?

The menorah was kindled specifically by Aharon to teach us that for the Torah to have its desired effects, Torah study alone is not enough. For Torah study alone is like the lamps of the menorah, which did not give off any light until Aharon kindled flames in them. Likewise, a person might study and comprehend the Torah but his soul will not be “ignited” by his Torah study, for his menorah is lacking flames.

Flames are caused by the combustion of fuel. The flames of the menorah thus represent prayer, during which one contemplates “the greatness of G-d and the lowliness of man” (Rem”a, Orach Chaim 98:1). By contemplating our own insignificance, and thereby appreciating the great opportunity that G-d has given us to approach him through prayer, our egos are “consumed,” allowing for the creation of a flame.

Why is prayer associated with Aharon?

The Zohar compares Moshe and Aharon to shushvinin, the ushers who escort a bride and groom to the chupah (see Zohar, Vayikra 53b, et al). In the analogy, Moshe is the escort of the Groom and Aharon is the escort of the bride. Moshe revealed G-d’s wisdom to the world, but Aharon focused on elevating Bnei Yisrael, drawing them closer toward G-d. Elevating ourselves and drawing ourselves closer to G-d is likewise the focus of prayer. G-d therefore commanded Aharon to ignite the menorah, for it is our service of prayer, represented by Aharon, which enables our Torah study to illuminate our lives.

—Toras Menachem, vol. 40, pp. 108-112


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