by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"Speak to Aharon and say to him: 'when you light the lamps, towards the
face of the Menorah shall you light the seven lamps.'" [8:2]
We begin our reading this week with the Commandment to light the Menorah in
the Tabernacle. As my teacher Rabbi Asher Z. Rubenstein pointed out, G-d
doesn't need our candles. He doesn't need our light.
In an ordinary house, the windows are narrowest on the outside. Because of
the way light radiates, this method of construction allows the maximum
amount of light to enter the house through the window.
In the Holy Temple, on the other hand, the deign was just the opposite --
the windows were narrowest on the inside. This allowed the internal light
of the Temple to radiate outwards.
So G-d doesn't need our light -- what He wants, however, is for Israel to
participate, for Israel to be engaged in the act of lighting. Yet, what
does this symbolize?
The answer may be found in Proverbs (20:27): "The light of HaShem is the
soul of man" [Ner HaShem Nishmas Adam]. G-d does not need our light, but He
offers us the opportunity to radiate light. And we are to be involved with
This applies, said Rav Rubenstein, not only to ourselves. If we find a
"candle" which isn't burning, it is our obligation to light it. If we find
a Jewish soul which is not shining, we cannot leave it dim.
Torah enlightens the mind and gives joy to the heart. A person may be "dim"
because he or she is unhappy, or lacking the shine of Jewish spiritual
life. One way or the other, we must participate by sharing light. One
candle can light thousands of others -- if it is, itself, burning brightly.
Here too, G-d does not "need" our help. He alone can light the lights. But
He wants us to be involved in the lighting. We -- every one of us -- has
the opportunity to share, and to grow brighter along with others. G-d gives
us not merely a place under the lights -- He gives us the opportunity to
radiate on our own, and to help others to shine as well.
Let us participate in lighting Menorahs, all around us!