by Rabbi Dovid Green
G-d told Moshe "Speak to Aharon...when you light the candles the seven
lights should shine facing the center of the menorah. And so Aharon
did...like G-d commanded Moshe (Numbers 8:2-3)." Rashi, the famous medieval
commentary, remarks that "this tells the praise of Aharon, because he did
not change, or modify." What if he had modified? He would be ignoring the
mitzvah, or commandment he was given. He wouldn't just be undeserving of
praise, he would be liable. Yet, we consider it praiseworthy that he didn't
modify? The commentaries address this in various ways, as follows.
One explanation is that even though Aharon did not hear this himself from
G-d, and he heard it from his younger brother, he still did the commandment
with the same attention to detail as if he had heard it from G-d. This takes
great fortitude. Human nature sometimes dictates to drag one's feet in such
a circumstance as hearing the orders from a middleman, and a younger sibling
Another approach refers to the freshness with which Aharon performed the
mitzvah (commandment). Even though he did it routinely for many years, he
didn't change. It means that he performed the act with the same enthusiasm
as he had on the very first day.
Lastly, there is an interpretation which addresses the soul of the act of
lighting the menorah. It is based on the midrashic statement that when G-d
created the world (Genesis 1) the Torah uses the expression "and it was so."
However, when light was created on the first day of creation, it does not
say "and it was so," rather, "and it was light." The midrash states that
"and it was so" indicates that aspect of the creation having been founded
and established. The light was not established in its original form, because
G-d knew that evil people would exist in the world, and He didn't want them
to benefit from this heavenly light. G-d therefore stored it away as a
reward for later. (Keep in mind that light was created before the sun, the
moon, and the stars.) This is why the Torah omits "and it was so." It is
because it was not "so," as it was when it was created. In other words, the
existence of evil caused a modification in the establishment of light.
When the Torah describes Aharon's act of lighting the Menorah it states "and
Aharon did 'So'." Rashi again, remarks "to tell the praise of Aharon, that
he did not modify." This means that the purity of Aharon's intent was such
that he didn't cause the change that evil caused. Evil caused the "and it
was so" regarding the light to be modified. Aharon did "So." Which "so" did
he do? The "so" which was originally held back by the existence of evil.
When he made light upon the Menorah, he created a light which was that of
the original light of the creation. He didn't cause the "and it was so" to
be modified. He succeeded in accessing the light of the 1st day of creation.
We can gain insight from these three approaches into what is praiseworthy in
the performance of mitzvos (commandments): attention to detail, consistence
coupled with enthusiasm, and purity of intent. "This teaches us the praise
of Aharon, that he didn't modify."
Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.