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Peninim on the Torah

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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


And they shall take for you pure, pressed olive oil for illumination, to kindle the lamp continuously. (27:20)

The future tense indicates that the oil would have to be brought continuously. Sforno explains that the mitzvah to kindle the Menorah was an ongoing one and was to continue on past the Inauguration ceremony of the Mishkan. There does, however, seem to be an inconsistency in the text. The lighting of the Menorah was apparently related to the Inauguration of the Mishkan, while the term "continuously" implies that it is an on-going mitzvah. How does it fit in with the Inauguration? In his commentary to Parashas Behaalosecha, Rashi explains that the kindling of the Menorah was an extremely important task, one that was worthy of being included in the chanukas, Inauguration, of the Mishkan. The Ramban challenges this exegesis, asserting that inauguration, by its very definition, means a "one time deal," performed at the commencement of a project. The lighting of the Menorah, however, is an on-going mitzvah. How are we to reconcile "on-going" with "inauguration"?

The Ramban cites a Midrash that declares that a day will come when there will be no functioning Bais Hamikdash in the sense that Korbanos will be offered and the Jewish People will assemble three times a year. It will stand, but there will be no service. It will be specifically at this time that a group of Aharon's descendants, all Kohanim, the Chashmonaim, will catalyze the reinauguration of the Bais Hamikdash. This is, of course, a reference to Chanukah, the festival that marks the rededication of the Bais Hamikdash. Thus, Aharon's lighting of the Menorah is foreshadowing a time when Aharon's descendants will inaugurate the Temple service - again. This was the focus of Chanukah. The rededication of the Bais Hamikdash was the most important aspect of the Chashmonean victory over the Greeks.

This preface leads up to a noteworthy question posed to Horav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita. We celebrate the festival commemorating the miracle of Chanukah with an emphasis on publicizing the miracle that occurred there. A man approached the rav with the following query. He had in his possession an old Chanukah Menorah made of ornate silver. It was an inheritance that had been passed down for generations. A work of art, its value was well into the thousands of dollars. It was inspirational, as well as beautiful. Ever since his marriage, he had used this Menorah for kindling the Chanukah lights.

Prior to Chanukah, the man's young son had come home from school with a prize he had won for hasmadah, diligence, in Torah study - a small brass Menorah. What should the father do? Should he continue using the ornate heirloom Menorah, or, as a sign of encouragement to his young son, should he use his small, brass Menorah?

At first glance, Rav Zilberstein thought that, since Chanukah is a time in which hiddur mitzvah, beautifying the mitzvah, plays such a pivotal role, he should use the silver Menorah. On the other hand, what greater symbol of pirsumei nissa, publicizing the miracle, is there than using a child's prize, a Menorah earned for diligence in Torah study? In a generation aptly called the "me" generation, a child who gives up his time to devote himself to Torah study personifies our true victory over the Greeks - and the victory of everyone else who has tried to destroy our inextricable relationship with the Almighty. This is why we fought the Greeks; this is why we won. We have a responsibility to publicize this fact. I recently attended a wedding, which to me seemed a bit excessive, especially since the father of the kallah, bride, did not have that kind of money. Noticing what must have seemed a disapproving look on my face, the father, a good friend of mine, said, "My parents were Holocaust survivors. The Nazis sought to destroy us all. This is my revenge on them. We are here today, a generation later, marrying off our children. Their plan has failed. The Jewish nation has once again prevailed. I am publicizing this. It is my pirsumei nissa!"

What a beautiful inspiration to us all. This does not mean that we should borrow money so that we can spend it ostentatiously. It just presents the idea that we must take pride in our existence and pay gratitude to He Who has always protected us from harm and Who continues to sustain us, and, yes, it is also a form of reciprocity. We have survived with the help of Hashem - and with His blessing - we will continue to thrive.

Bring near to yourself Aharon your brother… to minister to Me. 28:1)

The democratic process of choosing a leader was not applied to Aharon HaKohen. Hashem selected him. There was no room for discussion. Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, felt that Aharon was the most suitable person for the position of Kohen Gadol and future progenitor of the Kehunah, Priesthood, in Klal Yisrael. The Midrash points out the uniqueness of this choice. Hashem did not simply choose Aharon - He was mekarev, brought him close. The Midrash distinguishes between Avraham Avinu, Yaakov Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu, who were also selected for their exalted positions by Hashem. Yet, they were the individuals who had to bring themselves close. Yisro was brought close by Hashem, but was not selected for a position. Rachav was likewise brought close, but not chosen. Aharon was the only one - who after being chosen - was also brought near.

In other words, no man was more suitable for this position than Aharon. The very idea that Hashem brought Aharon close indicates that he had an affinity to the position. He was a natural for the Kehunah. Why? Aharon HaKohen's domain was the Mishkan and its holy service. The Mishkan functioned as a moving symbol of the Revelation at Har Sinai. The Mishkan was the focal point in this world for a Jew to come close to Hashem: to sense, feel and experience the sanctity that had permeated the nation when the Torah was given to them. It created a symbolic harmony between Heaven and earth, between man and Hashem, between the physical/material and the spiritual. All this was symbolized by - and emanated from - the Mishkan. The Kohen facilitated this experience. It was his province, his raison d'e'tre as the one who guided the Jew's developing relationship with the Divine. It was for this task that Hashem chose Aharon. It was for this mission that he was the most appropriate.

Why? Because Aharon was an individual who divested himself of himself. He had no anochius, "I" complex. He never thought of himself - only of the other person. He was never envious of another. Even when his younger brother was chosen to be Klal Yisrael's leader, Aharon came forward and joyfully embraced him with love. This same attitude prevailed in his relationship with the common man. He sought to promote peace among his fellow man and to unite husband and wife in a harmonious matrimonial relationship.

We now understand why it was Hashem who had to select and promote Aharon as Kohen Gadol. Aharon would never have taken the position on his own. He would have felt himself unworthy and would, therefore, have deferred it to someone else. It was specifically his outstanding humility that rendered him the most felicitous person for the position.

Humility is not a simple middah, character trait, to acquire. This is especially true when one achieves a position of leadership. People turn to Torah leaders, rabbanim, roshei yeshivah, admorim, for every bit of guidance, both in a physical/material as well as in a spiritual sense. This can detract from one's focus. There are those gedolim, Torah giants, who are revered by all aspects of the Jewish spectrum. They are constantly sought out for their advice, guidance and blessing. At times, it is just their smile that one seeks. I just had occasion to read Rabbi Sholom Smith's introduction to his latest volume in the "Rav Pam" series, Rav Pam on the Festivals - and I was moved. Everything he writes about the venerable Rosh HaYeshivah of Torah Vodaath is something I felt every time I had the privilege to meet with him. Regardless of his physical state, the pain he sustained, he made time for the boys from Cleveland whose annual Torah trip to New York always included a visit with the Rosh HaYeshiva. Indeed, he made us feel that it was his privilege to host us. He accorded the greatest respect to each of the rebbeim. He had no problem posing for a picture, even if a young student inadvertently asked him to "move over a little." The paradigm of humility, he was a true descendant of Aharon HaKohen. Indeed, he would often say that he was a Kohen hamevarech ba'ahavah, "a Kohen who blessed his people with love."

I close with a quote from Rav Pam's introduction to his classic Atarah LaMelech, cited by Rabbi Smith. His overwhelming desire in life was "to see my talmidim, students, at the peak of character development, crowned with the crown of beautiful middos and a pleasant approach to their interaction with their fellow human beings, as men of true spiritual striving who give honor to Hashem and embody in their lives the pasuk (Yeshayah 49:3), "Yisrael, in whom I take glory."

If this is what a rebbe wants for his talmidim, then apparently he must be a walking and breathing example of these noble and lofty goals. Rav Pam certainly set this standard.

You shall take the two Shoham Stones and engrave upon them the names of the Bnei Yisrael. (28:9)

The Abarbanel explains that the names of the Shevatim, Tribes, were engraved on the Shoham stones, which were later attached to the Kispos haEiphod, shoulder straps of Eiphod, so that Aharon HaKohen would never lose sight of the Jewish People. Whenever he raised his hands, the names would be before him. These stones would serve as a constant reminder. This is the function of a Torah leader: to never lose sight of his flock. He should focus on providing for them at every juncture, keeping them on his mind constantly. Once Horav Aharon zl, m'Belz sent for a doctor. The physician entered the room to see the holy Rebbe engrossed, deep in thought. "What is the Rebbe thinking?" the doctor queried. "Only good things for the Jews," was the Rebbe's immediate response. This can be carried out only when one does not stop thinking about his fellow Jews even for a moment.

The Amshinover Rebbe, zl, once said that a rebbe of chasidim must be acutely aware of three things: a) when he sits on the rabbinic "chair" he should imagine that he is sitting on a bed of nails; b) prior to reading the kvittel, note with the petitioner's request on it, he should be aware of its contents; c) the troubles of the petitioner should grieve him as if they were his own. Moshe Rabbeinu epitomized this type of leadership. He saw the troubles that the Jews were suffering, and he felt them. A leader does not just care about the members of his flock; he actually feels their pain.

With this idea in mind, it behooves the individual who has poured out his troubles to the tzaddik, righteous leader, to also share with him the good, the relief, the blessing that he receives later. The tzaddik shares in your pain. Why should he not also share in your joy? Indeed, the Imrei Emes would cite the pasuk in Yirmiyah 4:22, "They are wise at doing evil, but know not how to do good," embellishing it, saying, "They go to the wise to lament their troubles, but do not know then when they are the recipients of good."

The Piaczesner Rebbe, zl, was an individual who exemplified this sensitivity to his chassidim. He spent literally every penny that he had to redeem those of his chassidim that had been conscripted to the Polish army. He bribed and used every form of guile to subvert their efforts to take these young Jewish men from their homes. When he was queried as to why he went to such great lengths on behalf of his chassidim, he replied, "Any Rebbe who is not prepared to descend to Gehinom to rescue his chassid from falling into the depths of spiritual oblivion is not a Rebbe."

There are a number of versions to the following story concerning Horav Moshe Leib Sassover, zl. I cite the most accepted one, which was related by Horav David Leib Chortkaver, zl. The sainted Sassover left This World for his eternal rest. When he came before the Heavenly Tribunal, the psak din, holy judgment, was that he be granted a lofty place in Gan Eden. The Sassover refused to go - unless he could take with him those souls presently in Gehinom who, during their lifetime, had given him money. The alternative to this was that he join them in Gehinom. After deliberation, the Sassover was "permitted" to enter Gehinom for one hour, during which he succeeded in removing those souls from there.

The Tiferes Shlomo explains that this middah, characteristic, is an extension of the spiritual plateau reached by none other than Moshe Rabbeinu. Throughout his tenure as leader - and even earlier as he walked out on the streets of Egypt - he observed his brothers' travail and was personally pained by it. As a leader, he even said to Hashem, "Erase my name from Your Book" (Shemos 32:32), unless he was assured that Klal Yisrael's sin concerning the Golden Calf would be forgiven. Aharon HaKohen, the other leader of Klal Yisrael, was to carry the mishpat Bnei Yisrael, "Judgment of Bnei Yisrael," on his heart in the Choshen HaMishpat, on which were engraved the names of the Tribes. He was always to remember them and to accept upon himself personally to "suffer" the judgment that otherwise would be leveled against Klal Yisrael.

In addition, the Tiferes Shlomo posits that this is the function of every Torah leader: to feel the pain and, thereby, remove some of the travail that would otherwise be decreed against Klal Yisrael. He interprets this into the pasuk in Devarim 18:15, which addresses "a Navi from your midst, from your brethren, like me." We are enjoined to listen to the words of the Navi emes, true prophet, who will be like Moshe. How are we to understand this? Are we not taught that there never will arise another Navi of the calibre of Moshe? How then could this Navi emes be like "me," like Moshe? The Torah is teaching us that while no other Navi will achieve Moshe's spiritual stature in prophecy, but his ability to be moser nefesh, devotion to the point of self sacrifice, can be successfully realized by those who follow in his leadership footsteps. In other words, our spiritual leadership, whose devotion extends to the needs and travail of all Jews, are the modern day Moshe Rabbeinus of each generation.

You shall fill it with stone mounting, four rows of stone. (28:17)

Aharon HaKohen served in the Mishkan wearing eight Priestly vestments. Among the Kohen Gadol's vestments, the Choshen and Eiphod had singular significance, since these made up the seat of the precious stones with which they were adorned. The Choshen had twelve individual stones, each one representing another tribe. The Eiphod had the two Shoham stones on its shoulder straps. Obviously, the selection of each individual stone with its corresponding Shevet, tribe, was based in profound spiritual rationale. We will focus on the stones of Yosef and Binyamin, the two sons of Rachel Imeinu.

Yosef's stone was the Shoham stone. This stone had another opportunity to be used as the two stones of the Kispos haEiphod, shoulder straps of the Eiphod. The fact that on these two stones were engraved the names of all the Tribes indicates its uniqueness in being a stone representing harmony, unity and homogeneity. All of the Tribes were included in the stone of Yosef. The Sfas Emes explains that indeed Yosef is the shoresh, root, of the Shevatim; it represents and transcends them. On his deathbed, Yaakov Avinu said to Yosef, "From there, he shepherded the stone of Yisrael" (Bereishis 49:24). The word even, stone, can be seen as a contraction of two words, av, father, and ben, son. Rashi explains that this contradiction alludes to the family, for it is the building block upon which the nation is built. Yosef became the foundation stone upon which Klal Yisrael would be built. Yosef was me'acheid, unified all the Tribes, under one banner.

We find that when Yaakov Avinu ran from Eisav, he stopped along the road and had his famous dream. When he lay down he took one stone, which, according to Chazal, was actually comprised of twelve little stones, which became one stone, foreshadowing the twelve Tribes, which would descend from Yaakov. The Zohar HaKadosh draws a parallel between the twelve stones of Yaakov that became one and Yosef's Shoham stone which included the twelve Tribes.

Binyamin's stone was the Yashpah stone. Because of his young age, Binyamin was the only brother who had nothing to do with the sale of Yosef. In other words, he was the only one who was not tainted by a lack of Kibud av, proper respect for his father. Horav Moshe Reis, Shlita, cites the story in the Talmud Kiddushin 31a, which relates how a stone from the Choshen was lost, and the only person who had a similar stone was Dama ben Nesinah, a gentile living in Ashkelon. When the emissaries from Yerushalayim came to him, he said he could not help them because his father was sleeping in the room in which the stone was kept for safekeeping. He was prepared to forego a huge profit if it meant infringing on his father's rest. Which one of the twelve stones was lost? In the Yerushalmi Kiddushin 20:1, Chazal say that it was the Yashpah stone of Binyamin. Incredible! When Hashem sought to portray a situation that personified true Kibud av, He chose a case that involved the Yashpah stone. The stone of the brother/tribe, which symbolized Kibud av.

Chazal characterize Rachel Imeinu's distinction in that she gave the simanim, signs, to Leah, her sister, and did not reveal this to Yaakov. Because of her exceptional ability to be silent, she merited children who exemplified silence: Binyamin who did not reveal Yosef's sale; Shaul HaMelech who did not reveal that he had been chosen as king, and Esther Ha'Malkah, who did not reveal her background. This is alluded to in Binyamin's stone: Yashpah - a contraction of the words yeish, and peh; there is a mouth, but it is silent. Rachel taught us that there is a time and place to speak and a time and place to remain silent.

Va'ani Tefillah

Mizmor Shir Chanukas - A song of the Inauguration of the House of David.

Those who daven Nusach Ashkenaz, begin Pesukei d'Zimrah with Mizmor Shir Chanukas, while in Nusach Ari and Nusach Sfard, the custom is to begin with Hodu. In either case, Mizmor Shir is recited prior to Baruch She'amar, as a fitting introduction to Pesukei d'Zimra. One of the great Chassidic Rebbes noted that while Nusach Sfard and Ashkenaz begin their Tefillah from divergent points of entry, when it comes to Yehi Kavod Hashem, "Let it be the Glory of Hashem," they meet at the same focal point. For our purposes, we will begin with an explanation of Mizmor Shir. The Arizal included Mizmor Shir in his Siddur, and over time it found its way into the other Siddurim. He revealed some of the secrets of this Psalm, such as that Hashem's Name is mentioned ten times, corresponding with the Aseres HaDibros, Ten-Commandments.

David HaMelech refers to the Bais HaMikdash as the House of David. Why? Did he build it? Shlomo, his son, built it. The Midrash explains that David was moser nefesh, devoted himself to the point of self-sacrifice, to see it built. Therefore, it is attributed to him. His willingness to give up everything earned him the merit that the Bais HaMikdash is called by his name. Indeed, he prepared everything for it. He left nothing undone - he even composed the song of Inauguration.

This song is primarily a song of gratitude. Horav Avigdor Miller, zl, explains that this indicates that the primary function of the Bais HaMikdash was to give thanks to Hashem. Everything that occurred there was done solely to demonstrate our gratitude to Hashem. This is the true meaning of avodah, service: Thank you, Hashem.

in honor of the forthcoming marriage
of our son,
Moshe Tzvi n'y
Adina Braum shetichye
yehi ratzon shetizke livnos bayis ne'eman b'yisrael

Rabbi and Mrs. Leibel Scheinbaum

Peninim on the Torah is in its 14th year of publication. The first nine years have been published in book form.

The Ninth volume is available at your local book seller or directly from Rabbi Scheinbaum.

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