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And Aharon did so…as Hashem had commanded Moshe. (8:3)
Rashi explains that the Torah presents the notion of Aharon doing as he had been instructed in order to praise Aharon, to demonstrate that he had not deviated. These words have become famous in their description of the greatness of Aharon HaKohen: "He did not deviate." From what did he not deviate? Obviously, the Torah does not have to tell us that Aharon followed Hashem's command. Maharel explains that Aharon could have delegated the kindling of the Menorah to one of the other Kohanim. After all, it did involve a certain amount of menial labor in preparing the wicks and dealing with the soot and oil. Yet, it did not bother Aharon. He was honored to comply with Hashem's command. Horav Bunim Mi'Pesischa,zl, interprets Aharon's "not deviating" as applying to Aharon himself. Despite his exalted position as the person who lit the Menorah, he did not change. He remained the same warm, humble person he had always been. His new position did not transform him.
Horav Levi Yitzchak,zl, Mi'Berditchev, explains that any person who would be granted the incredible opportunity to light the Menorah would be overcome with emotion and excitement. Certainly, having been selected to be the one to light the Menorah is a compelling experience. It would seem that the chosen individual would be extremely nervous and quite possibly not physically in control. He would be so overwhelmed with passion and enthusiasm that he might spill some of the oil and soak the wicks. Not Aharon HaKohen. He was in complete control. Never once did he falter, never did he shake. He stood before Hashem and lit the Menorah with complete confidence, his emotions restrained out of respect for the Divine Service.
We might tend to overlook another aspect of Aharon's emotion. Horav Ovadiah Yosef, Shlita, notes that Aharon was to enter the Kodesh Hakadoshim, Holy of Holies, the place where his two precious sons, Nadav and Avihu, had died on the very day of their inauguration into the Priesthood. Certainly, Aharon was filled with great pain and sorrow as he entered this place. He was to confront the tragedy over again. As he looked around the room, he saw his sons; he saw them being consumed by the Heavenly Fire. Any lesser person would have been so overcome with emotion he probably would not be able to come face to face with the reality of the tragedy. Not Aharon HaKohen, the first Kohen Gadol, who personified and exemplified gadlus, greatness, to the fullest extent of the word. He did not flinch; he did not cry; he did not deviate from that which was expected of the Kohen Gadol. He accepted the Divine command to light the Menorah, just as he had accepted the Divine decree that his sons prematurely leave the world under such tragic circumstances. This is true gadlus.
Last, Vayakhel Moshe offers an interpretation based upon an exegesis quoted from the Gaon M'Vilna. The commentators question the text of the Kiddushin when -- as a man places the ring on his bride's finger -- he says, "Behold, you are consecrated to me by means of this ring, according to the ritual of Moshe and Yisrael." "Daas Moshe v'Yisrael," the ritual of Moshe and Yisrael, is a reference to the Torah. Why would we draw a parallel between the Kiddushin, marriage ceremony of a woman, and the Torah?
The Gaon explains that when one hears a Torah thought from his friend which he already knows, he should not tell him, "I already know that." He should always view every dvar Torah, word of Torah, as novel, original, a brand new idea. This is the holiness of Torah. It is always viewed as something fresh, new and exciting.
The same notion applies to marriage. Husband and wife are, hopefully, together for the rest of their lives. Day in and day out, they are together. There is always the fear that they might get "used" to each other; the excitement, the spark of life that used to be there might be extinguished. The Torah warns us against this. Marriage is like the Torah: We must always view it as something new, as one long honeymoon.
The risk was that Aharon HaKohen might become complacent by lighting the candles day in and day out. The Torah tells us that Aharon's enthusiasm did not wane - even momentarily. The love and excitement that permeated him on that auspicious first day continued throughout his tenure as Kohen Gadol.
The people were like those who complain/ who seek pretexts of evil in the ears of Hashem. (11:11)
Some event always seems to interfere with Klal Yisrael's happiness. Obviously, this statement is relative to their lofty spiritual level. Every infraction, regardless of its size, tainted their spirituality. In this situation, we find them complaining, actually looking for something about which to complain. Horav S.R. Hirsch, zl, understands "misonenim" to be a derivative of "onen," a mourner, prior to burial. Moshe Rabbeinu greeted the opportunity to serve Hashem under any circumstances; he was willing to be led through wilderness and desert. His flock, however, was not. Spiritual perfection eluded them. They viewed themselves to be already dead, and they were mourning themselves! They felt cut off from the outside world. The cloud hovering over their camp and the Aron Ha'Kodesh, as well as the requirements for living in their proximity -- only made them feel more inferior. They were eluding life. They did not view their proximity to Hashem as an opportunity for a higher, fuller and happier life, but, rather, an annoyance. In accord with this definition of "misonenim," we may suggest that "mourning" over oneself is the root of all problems. Some people are just not happy. They seek a respite from their self-created problems; they look for a panacea to their ills, and it eludes them. One who goes through life in "mourning," seeking fault and finding it, is on a course of self-destruction.
The Imrei Emes derives from the words, "in the ears of Hashem," that their complaints never even exited their mouths. No human heard them. Only Hashem "heard" them. The Yodea Machashavos, One Who knows everyone's thoughts, knew what was going on in their minds. They did not have to articulate their criticism; Hashem knew it. In other words, they had an attitude problem. One can perform mitzvos, serve Hashem, be strictly observant to the letter of the law, but if his attitude is bitter, his service to Hashem is lacking.
This attitude is not endemic only to that generation. Regrettably, it has become common in contemporary times. People who seemingly have a good life, who have no reason to complain, walk around as if the world is coming to an end. A Jew should view life with a positive outlook. The Chidushei HaRim says that the realization alone that one is a member of the Am Ha'Mivchar, Chosen People, is sufficient reason for abundant joy. A great tzaddik once remarked that it is worth living on this earth for an entire lifetime just to once put Tefillin on!
Horav Moshe Reis, Shlita, relates that he heard the following from Horav Yechezkel Abramski, zl, who expounded on his experiences during his internment in Siberia: He was subjected to cruel and difficult labor under the most trying conditions. Upon arising one morning, he was about to begin to recite the "Modeh Ani," "I am gratefully thankful," thanking Hashem for returning his soul to him. Suddenly, he stopped to think, asking himself, "Am I really thanking Hashem for returning my soul? Is this a life?" What use was this neshamah Hashem was returning to him? Certainly, today would not bring with it any less labor than the day before had. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was not yet apparent. What did he really gain from his continued existence that it was worth his reciting, "Modeh Ani"? Then he understood the last words of the phrase, "raboh emunasehcha," abundant in Your faithfulness. That golden opportunity granted to each person - daily - the opportunity to cling to Hashem, is the greatest reason for "Modeh Ani," giving thanks. Just to be able to attach ourselves to Hashem, to imbue our lives with emunah in Him, is more than sufficient reason for living. Perhaps, in our low moments of dejection, when things just do not seem to be going the way we would like, we might think about this and realize how much we have to be thankful for.
We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge. (11:5)
The phrase "free of charge," is ambiguous. Were fish considered free because they were so plentiful in Egypt? Or is the idea that Hashem gave Bnai Yisroel the fish with "no strings attached," no obligation to perform mitzvos? In either case, we must endeavor to understand Klal Yisrael's attitude. This was the generation that stood at Har Sinai and received the Torah. They were privy to the most incredible revelation of the Almighty. Indeed, Chazal emphasize that the simple maidservant who stood at Krias Yam Suf, the splitting of the Red Sea, experienced a greater revelation of G-d than Yechezkel ha'Navi, the great prophet whose prophecies concerning the Heavenly images were unequaled. How could such a distinguished nation, who had experienced so much, rebel so soon?
Simply, we derive from here that regardless of who one is -- or the distinction of his spiritual achievements -- at any time, if he is not careful, he can regress and return to his sinful past. One must always be concerned that he might slip and fall into the abyss of sin. Horav Moshe Rosenstein, zl, the mashgiach of Yeshivas Lomza; explains that once one has reached a lofty spiritual plateau it is unlikely that he will regress. In fact, we rarely find any of our gedolim, Torah giants, giving in to their physical/material tendencies. Do we ever find a Navi, prophet, longing for a material delicacy? He explains that it all depends upon the genesis of one's spiritual development. If it was the result of toil and total commitment, then it has imbued the individual's inner psyche, transforming him into a total ben Torah. The members of the generation of the wilderness received their level of prophecy as a gift from the Almighty. They did not work for it; they did not toil for it. It was granted to them as a result of Hashem's benevolence. They themselves did not transform. Thus, when they were confronted with challenge, they immediately resorted to their old persona. As long as things were going well, Klal Yisrael maintained their commitment. When they were confronted with challenge and adversity, they did not have the inner spiritual fortitude to overcome the challenge. Only when we work for our spiritual achievements do they become assimilated into our personality.
A similar exegesis is rendered regarding the Shoham and Milluim stones contributed by the Nesiim, Princes, towards the Mishkan. These stones symbolized the height of holiness; they were placed in the Breastplate and shoulder straps of the Kohen Gadol's vestments. Interestingly, when the Torah details the various contributions for the Mishkan, these stones are mentioned last. One would think that such sacred objects would be given a greater place of distinction. Horav Yosef Leib Nendik, zl, who was a preeminent mashgiach in a number of Lithuanian yeshivos prior to World War II, explains that these stones were granted to the Nesiim by special "messenger" - they were left for them by Heavenly clouds, complete and ready to be used. While these stones that were derived in such an unusual and unique manner, must have reflected a sublime level of holiness, they still lacked the ingredients of labor and toil. Hashem desires and appreciates human input. The fruits of one's labor have greater significance before the Almighty than stones, carried by Heavenly messenger. One's own labor evinces love and devotion, attributes for which there are no replacements.
And I will take from the spirit which is on you and place it on them, and they shall bear with you the burden of the people. (11:17)
It was just too much to bear. Moshe listened to the grievances of the people regarding the manna. They were unfounded; but is that not the nature of most complaints? Yet, Moshe toldHashem, it was too much for one person to cope with alone. Hashem responded by instructing Moshe to select seventy distinguished elders, men worthy of distinction, who would share in the leadership. Hashem promised to imbue these leaders with the greatness of spirit essential for assisting Moshe with shepherding the Jewish People.
In explaining the word, "v'atzalti", and I will take (from the spirit), Rashi cites Targum Onkelos who translates this as, "And I will make them great from the spirit which is on you." This presents a difficulty. How would this help Moshe? If his spirit was not sufficient for him to bear the burdens of the people, evidently sharing it with others would not make it stronger. How would "sharing" have made it easier?
Rashi provides us with a meaningful answer, by comparing Moshe Rabbeinu to a candle. Regardless of how many candles are lit from the original candle, its light remains as strong and as bright as before. Hashem would use Moshe's spirit as a vehicle to imbue others; their spirits would be kindled, but his would remain unchanged. Together they would carry the burden of the nation.
What a remarkable lesson for educating our children/students! Horav David Feinstein, Shlita, derives an important principle in education from Rashi. A rebbe/teacher cannot give a child/student new abilities. He can and should awaken the latent potential within his charge. By channeling this potential towards appropriate and realistic goals, he will succeed in his G-d-given task.
QUESTIONS and ANSWERS
1) How did the Kohen reach the top of the Menorah?
1) There was a step in front of the Menorah for him to stand on.
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