Torah Fax

Friday, March 4, 2005 - 23 Adar I, 5765

Torah Reading: VaYakhel (Exodus 35:1 -38:20)
Candle Lighting time: 5:32 PM
Shabbat ends: 6:33 PM
We bless the new month of Adar II
How Sweet It Is!
The Menorah which existed in the Temple, is described in the Torah in several ways. In some instances it is described as "Menorah HaTehorah," (the pure Menorah) because it had to be made of pure gold. In this week's parsha, where the Torah recounts how Moses delivered G‑d's commandment to build the Mishkan and all of its vessels o the Jewish people, the Torah introduces the Menorah with a new and unique title: "Menorat HaMaor (The Menorah for lighting).
Several questions can be raised here. First, why does the Torah add the words "for lighting (HaMaor)?" Wasn't it obvious that the Menorah was intended for lighting? Second, there is only one other place (Numbers 4:9) in the Torah where the Menorah is characterized as "the Menorah for lighting." If the characterization of the Menorah as a Menorah for light is so crucial for our understanding of the Menorah, why is this description not mentioned in more often when the Torah is describing the Menorah? Third, in our parsha, all the other utensils of the Mishkan are mentioned, but are presented without their function. The ark and table are mentioned without adding, "The Ark for the Tablets," or "The Table for the Showbread." (The altars are described as the Altar of the Burnt Offering and the Altar of Incense, but that is in order to distinguish one from the other.) Why then is the Menorah singled out here to be described as "the Menorah for lighting?"
The key to answering these questions is to understand what distinguishes the mention of the Mishkan and its vessels in this parsha from other references. As we mentioned above, in this parsha Moses transmits the commandment to make the Mishkan and its vessels to the Jews. He had already received the commandments about the Mishkan in the parsha of Terumah, which was read two weeks ago. It follows then, that while it was not so crucial for G‑d to have told Moses that the Menorah was for lighting, it was imperative that it be articulated unambiguously to the Jewish people.
A Menorah-particularly one made out of pure gold-is an exquisite piece of art. The Menorah was the most ornate piece in the Mishkan. It had seven branches and numerous decorative cups, spheres and flowers. The fact that it was made out of one piece of pure gold only enhanced its aesthetic and monetary value. The value of the Menorah was further increased when we consider the Midrashic tradition that Moses was incapable of making the Menorah, and G‑d told him throw the gold into the fire, and out came a completed Menorah.
All of these facts would seem to indicate that the Menorah's primary role was not as a source of light, but as an exquisite expression of Divine artistry. To further buttress the argument that the Menorah was a piece of Divine art, one can cite the Kabbalistic understanding of the seven branches of the Menorah as a representation of the seven Divine attributes. One could easily conclude that the placement of the Menorah in the Temple was intended to give people an opportunity to glimpse the Divine, by beholding the unparalleled beauty of the Menorah.
To dismiss this thought, that might have entered the minds of the Jews when they first heard about the Menorah and its intricate design, the Torah goes out of its way to stress that the Menorah was primarily for lighting. Its main function was not to be a spiritual museum piece for people to marvel at and even be inspired by, but to bring G‑d's light to the world.
Indeed, of the miracles that occurred on a daily basis during the first Temple era was the Ner HaMa'aravi (The Western Light) that would never extinguish on its own. From this Western Light, the Kohain would kindle the other lights. This miraculous light, the Talmud states, served as testimony of G‑d's presence in Israel.
Every Jew is commissioned to serve as a "Western light" that never extinguishes, and brings the awareness of G‑d's presence to the world.  Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk, one of the great Chassidic Masters explains how the word ma'aravi (Western) can also be translated as the "light that is made of multiple hues." In addition, Rabbi Elimelech writes, it can be translated as "the sweet light."
The lesson for our times: As we are going through the last vestiges of evil before the dawn of the Messianic Age it is not sufficient for us to be models of spiritual beauty. We must serve as beacons of light to dispel the darkness around us.  Judaism is not a bland religion; it is multifaceted and sweet. It contains intellectual, emotional as well as practical components. Judaism is both rational and mystical. Judaism is warm and inviting as well as firm and demanding. And when we light up the world with the light of the Menorah it should reflect all of these shades. We must become the non-extinguishable "western lights" that reflect the entire spectrum of Torah hues and lights. 
But there is one more condition. The light must be sweet. It must not only reflect the sweetness of Torah knowledge and practice itself, but, moreover, it must be presented in a sweet and pleasant way. By becoming the Menorah for lighting, we will hasten the coming of Moshiach, the ultimate leader and Ner HaMa'aravi, who will bring the full spectrum of Divine light into the world, in the spirit of true peace.
Moshiach Matters
We see in recent years how the verse "Moshe gathered... the Jews" is occurring literally — the ingathering of the exiles of Jews from all over the world, who are returning to the Holy Land. The current number of Jews ascending to the Land of Israel is incomparably greater than that of previous generations." (From a talk of the Rebbe, Shabbat Vayakhel, 5752-1992)
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit
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