Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann
Making No Difference
At the beginning of this week's sidrah, Behaloscha, Hashem (G-d)
commands Aaron to light the seven-lamp Menorah of the Mishkan
Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, "Speak to
Aaron, say to him, 'When you kindle the
lamps, towards the face (middle) of the
Menorah shall the seven lamps cast light.'...
And Aaron did so!"
Mefarshim (Torah commentators) are puzzled by the need for the
Torah to tell us that, "Aaron did so." One would only assume that
Aaron - Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and devoted servant of Hashem -
did exactly what Hashem told him to. Nothing else could be
Rashi, seemingly disturbed by this question, says the following:
And Aaron did so - this teaches the praise of
Aaron; that he did not deviate.
If Rashi was indeed bothered by the need of the Torah to write, "And
Aaron did so," then his explanation is all the more puzzling. Is the
entire praise of Aaron merely that "he did so?" Wouldn't most people
have done what Hashem commanded, particularly since the
commandment to light the Menorah doesn't seem to be a very
Many answers are given to this question. Chasam Sofer (Derashos p.
787) writes that the "praise of Aaron" was in that he did not delegate
the task of lighting the Menorah to one of the subordinate Kohanim,
even though it was on this very day that Aaron's two sons, Nadav and
Avihu, died. One might have thought that Aaron was in no mood to
light the Menorah after having lost his children so tragically and
suddenly. Since halacha (Jewish law) permits him to delegate the
task, it would have seemed completely appropriate to do so. But he
did not. And Aaron did so - he put aside his personal considerations,
and performed the mitzvah (commandment) of lighting the lamps
with joy, thereby demonstrating his absolute acceptance of Divine
providence and Hashem's will.
The holy tzaddik, Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, when he was a
young man, would often take leave of his family and spend extended
periods travelling through the towns and villages of Poland and
Russia. He travelled as a simple beggar, wandering from township to
township, never staying long enough to feel comfortable. (The
suffering of "exile" was seen as a method of attaining atonement for
one's sins. It was also used as a path to character refinement, by
having to deal with and accept the hardships which such travel
One time, after an extended period of exile, R' Elimelech decided the
time had come to return home. Just as he entered Lizhensk, he
heard someone cry out, "Quick - call a doctor; Eluzer is sick!" R'
Elimelech's oldest son was named Eluzer. Assuming it was his Eluzer
who was sick, R' Elimelech became panic-stricken and began running
toward his home.
Realizing what had happened, someone called out to him, "Don't
worry - it's not your Eluzer that's sick; it's Eluzer so-and-so!" R'
Elimelech stopped running; he was greatly relieved. He began
thanking and praising Hashem that all was well. Then he stopped; his
face took on an expression of disgust. "Meilech, Meilech," he said to
himself, "what have you accomplished with all your months of exile -
if it still makes a difference to you whose Eluzer is sick?!" Then and
there he decided that he had evidently not yet suffered enough. And
with that, R' Elimelech turned around, left Lizhensk, and went back
With this story, explains the Bobover Rebbe shlita (may he have a
refuah shleimah), we can homiletically explain the afformentioned
Rashi. Commentaries explain that the lamps of the Menorah allude
to the Jewish soul, as it is written (Mishlei/Proverbs 20:27), "For the
lamp of Hashem is a man's soul." Aaron, the Kohen Gadol, would
"light the candles" by trying to light up the neshamos of those Jews
who feel "extinguished," distant and forlorn.
Normally, one who dedicates himself to such work (and whose time
is ultimately limited) will at times "play favourites," choosing to give
his limited time to members of his own family, tribe, or to others with
whom he has some connection. But not Aaron. He loved every Jew
as he did his own child. "This teaches the praise of Aaron; that he did
not deviate" - it made no difference; his commitment to each-and-
every Jew was complete. Aaron played no favourites; young or old,
Ashkenazi or Sefardi, rich or poor, Aaron loved and spent time
encouraging and assisting them all.
In our times, when rifts between different factions of Judaism seem
to continually grow and escalate, there is much to be learned from
Aaron, whose ahavas Yisrael (love for his fellow Jew) overcame all
boundaries and differences.
Text Copyright © 1999 Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann and Project Genesis, Inc.