A Lamp for My Messiah
הרב אהרן פרידמן
The Midrash Tanchuma on our parsha, cited by Rashi, connects the commandment to prepare and light the Menorah with the portion of the tribal princes:
Why was the portion of the Menorah juxtaposed to the portion of the princes? When Aharon saw the dedication offering of the princes he felt bad that he was not with them in the dedication, neither he nor his tribe. G-d said to him: By your life! Yours is greater than theirs, for you light and prepare the candles.
The Ramban asks, why should Aharon feel bad, since he offered the dedication sacrifices and the daily offerings? Furthermore, what consolation is there in the Menorah more than in other Temple services, which are designated for Aharon and his descendents? (The Ramban's answer is that the Midrash is referring to the candles of the Hasmoneans, based on the Midrash Rabbah and R. Nissim. This is difficult to fit into the language of the Midrash Tanchuma, though.)
Before we resolve the Tanchuma, let us look at the end of the verse, and from there we will return to an understanding of the Midrash: "Speak to Aharon and say to him: When you kindle the lamps, toward the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps cast light." What is "toward the face of the Menorah?"
Rashi explains that this means the middle lamp. However, the phrase "the seven lights should illuminate" is difficult, as it should have said, "six."
Of the many explanations offered, we choose to follow the Chizkuni, who interprets, "toward the face" as referring to the Table. He writes: "The face of the Menorah - this is the Table, as it says in Parshat Pekudei, 'He placed the Menorah opposite the Table." (Shemot 40:24)
It seems that the deeper meaning is as follows: The Menorah is mentioned in Parshat Teruma only after the Table, and its place in the Mishkan is defined as the middle of the Table - "opposite the Table." Thus, the Menorah is a vessel serving the Table; it is obvious that one who eats at a table requires light. Undoubtedly, the one who eats at the Table is not G-d, who is not corporeal and has no body. The one for whom the Table is destined, in our humble opinion, is the King of Israel. In practice, the king does not enter the Sanctuary, but the Table expresses his reign, which is nourished by G-d. The crown of the Table symbolizes the crown of royalty that sits before G-d on the Throne of G-d, as it says: Shlomo sat on the seat of Hashem as a king in place of David, his father. He was successful, and all of Israel obeyed him." (Divrei Hayamim 1 29:23) [Perhaps the presence of the Table before Hashem is an allusion to the leniency that kings of the Davidic dynasty are allowed to sit in the Temple area, unlike other people.]
Once we understand the function of the Table, we understand as well the function of the Menorah - to illuminate the Table. To illuminate the Table means to direct the king of Israel in the light of Torah. This is the role of the Torah scholars who apply the Torah in daily practice. The seven branches allude to the council of Sages which includes seven advisors, whom the king would consult before deciding significant political decisions. We learn about the existence of such a council in the Gemara Megillah 23a, which explains that the seven people called to read the Torah on Shabbat correspond to the "seven who had access to the king" that appear in Megillat Esther. Presumably, the Gemara means that Israel also had a council of Sages that included seven members, and the seven people called to the Torah represent those Sages and correspond to them. There is an explicit verse in Tehillim (132:17) supporting our thesis: "There I shall cause pride to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for My anointed."
Perhaps this approach explains a strange allusion. In the entire Tanach, the word Menorah appears as an acronym in only one verse: "Then Boaz said: The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabite, wife of the deceased (Miyad Na'ami Ume'et Ruth Hamoavia)." (Ruth 4:5)
The meaning of this allusion, which appears at the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel, is rooted in G-d's intention when he established the kingdom of Israel from a Moabite woman. In addition to the many correct explanations on this topic, a king whose lineage is dependent of the interpretation of the elders in the gate: "Moabite [man] and not Moabite [woman]" - cannot detach himself from the instruction and illumination of the sages of the Oral Torah that are alluded to in the Menorah. Without them he is not considered worthy of marrying into the community. In Megillat Ruth, G-d ties the monarchy tightly to the Torah, or, in our terms, the Menorah to his Table.
This also explains the Midrash that we began with. The princes, who serve as the political leadership of Israel, come at the dedication of the Mishkan with their offerings. The absence of the tribe of Levi expresses the distance of the tribe from any political-practical leadership in Israel. The tribe of Levi, who lacks a share in the Land, and is scattered amongst his brethren, also has no share in directing the nation. Aharon felt bad about this, and about this itself G-d told him that everyone needs him. The leadership represented by the Table, with twelve loaves corresponding to the number of tribes of Israel, can function only in the light of Torah which is the share of the kohanim and Levites, about whom it says, "They shall teach your ordinances to Yaakov and Your Torah to Israel." (Devarim 33:10) This is an eternal portion.
As in those days, also nowadays, the role of those who learn Torah is not to separate from the leadership of the kingdom of Israel. Just the opposite is true! Our goal is to light its way with precious light and to call it to stride in the holy path, in the path of Hashem.
קוד השיעור: 3783
(Translated by Rav Meir Orlian)