By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
This week we read the parsha of B'ha'a'loscha, which begins with Aharon being
commanded to kindle the lights of the Menorah. "Dabare el Aharon v'amarta
ailav b'ha'a'loscha es hanairos... (speak to Aharon and tell him: 'when you
will kindle the lights...') [8:2]."
The previous parsha ended with the offerings brought by the leaders of each
tribe. What is the connecting flow between those offerings and Aharon's
kindling of the menorah? Rashi explains that Aharon was troubled that his
tribe, Levi, did not bring an offering along with the other tribes. Hashem
comforted him by telling him that his share is greater than theirs -- he
kindles the lights.
The Ramban is troubled why the specific service of the Menorah brought
comfort to Aharon. Many of the services in the Mishkan were performed only
by Aharon in his capacity of Kohen gadol (high priest). Furthermore, his
entire tribe were the leaders of the divine service!
The Ramban explains that the kindling of the Menorah that is being discussed
here is not referring to the Menorah of the Mishkan but rather, to the
Menorah that is kindled to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah. The
offerings will temporarily cease with the destruction of the Temple.
However, the kindling of the Menorah, celebrating the miracles brought about
through the mesiras nefesh (dedication) of your tribe - they will always be
From this episode we can see the profound desire of Aharon to have a part in
every mitzvah, even though, as the Kohen gadol, he had many special mitzvos
and responsibilities far beyond those of the rest of Klal Yisroel. With his
clear understanding of each and every mitzvah's priceless value, he was
troubled by the thought that he and his tribe might be missing out on any
one of them.
Chaza"l refer to this as 'ohev kesef lo yisva kesef' -- one who loves
silver is never satisfied with silver. When it comes to financial gain, we
understand very clearly how a person who has a lot still wants a more.
However, when it comes to mitzvos our attitude changes quite drastically...
'Why be so fanatical?' 'Let's not get carried away!' 'Chill out a bit.'
'Just be normal!' Chaza"l, therefore, used terms that we can relate to and,
at the same time, pointed out the ridiculous distortion of our priorities.
This clear understanding of a mitzvah's value and the desire not to miss out
on it comes up again later in our parsha. Bnei Yisroel were bringing the
korbon Pesach (Paschal sacrifice). "Va'y'hee anashim asher ha'yu tmayim
l'nefesh adom v'lo yachlu la'a'sos ha'Pesach (there were men who were
ritually impure from having come in contact with a corpse and were therefore
unable to bring a korbon Pesach) [9:6]." They approached Moshe and Aharon,
stated the fact that they were ritually impure and asked why should they
miss out on the korbon Pesach. Moshe responded that he'd have to take their
question to the 'Higher Authority'. He told them, "wait until I will hear
what Hashem will command".
Their complaint to Moshe seems somewhat strange as they apparently answered
their own question! They had to miss out on the korbon Pesach because they
were ritually impure! What more did they want from Moshe? Furthermore, why
did Moshe feel the need to bring this question to 'the Boss'?
There are different opinions as to the source of their impurity. Some say
that they removed the bodies of Nadav and Avihu after they had died bringing
an 'aish zarah' -- a strange uncommanded fire offering. Others say that they
were the bearers of Yosef's coffin. Still others maintain that they had come
in contact with a 'mais mitzvah' -- a person with no one to tend to his
burial. According to all of the opinions, their impurity came about as a
result of their involvement in a mitzvah. That was their claim to Moshe.
There is a concept that 'mitzvah goreres mitzvah' -- the performance of one
mitzvah pulls along and leads to the performance of another mitzvah. If so,
they asked, how could they be missing out on the mitzvah of korbon Pesach as
a result of another mitzvah that they had performed? Moshe couldn't answer
that on his own and had to ask Hashem.
Hashem's response was that, in fact, they shouldn't miss out. As a result
of their question, the entire parsha of Pesach sheni -- the 'second' Pesach
which takes place one month after the first, whereupon those who were
ritually impure or simply out of town on the first Pesach can bring their
korbon Pesach -- was revealed.
This parsha of Pesach sheni could have been taught to Moshe in the same way
that the rest of the Torah was taught to him. Why did it come about as a
result of their question? Rashi explains that in the merit of their intense
desire not to miss out on a mitzvah, this parsha was revealed through them.
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l makes a fascinating observation -- their names
aren't mentioned! Why didn't the Torah share with us who these great people
were? Wouldn't that be properly 'paying' their merit? He explains that
anyone who truly wants and loves mitzvos deserves to have those mitzvos
revealed through them. They weren't commanded. They should have felt 'off
the hook'. No pressure. No hassles. Free. Yet, they thirsted to fulfill the
mitzvah out of love for Hashem. Had their names been mentioned, one might
have made a mistake and said that they merited this parsha because they were
great people -- tzadikim. Their names weren't mentioned. They merited this
solely because of their love for mitzvos.
Rav Moshe continues and applies it to us. The Torah has already been given
-- we can't merit that it be given through us. But, if we perform our
mitzvos with love and happiness, we will be considered worthy of having had
that mitzvah given through us. If it is hard for us to completely fulfill a
certain mitzvah, we should try to do as much of it as we can. 'Ohev kesef lo
yisva kesef' -- one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver. I have
yet to meet a person who will say that if he can't receive a full 500%
profit on his investment, then he doesn't want to be bothered with a mere
250% profit. By money it's so clear, by mitzvos it's so elusive...
There are 248 'aivarim' (parts of the body) corresponding to the 248
positive commandments in the Torah. We are a composite of a spiritual entity
and a physical entity. Ultimately, both will have an eternal existence. How
can the eroding, physical body have eternity? The Torah serves as the link
between us and Hashem. Through the observance of the Torah, we connect to
Hashem and His eternity. Each mitzvah corresponds to a specific part of the
body. In order for that part of the body to have its eternity, it needs to
connect to the illumination of the light of its mitzvah. Adam Harishon
disobeyed the word of Hashem and ate from the tree of knowledge --
disobedience brought death to himself and to the world. "Eitz cha'im he
lamachazikim bo (it's a tree of life for those who hold on to it )." By
attaching ourselves to the Torah, to the tree of life, we gain eternity. A
mitzvah gained is eternity gained -- light. A mitzvah squandered is eternity
squandered -- darkness. 'Ohev kesef lo yisva kesef' - one who loves silver
is never satisfied with silver. Eternity. 'Ohev kesef lo yisva kesef'.
Once when a Jerusalem woman came to draw water from a well, Rav Zundel of
Salant was standing nearby. As he was dressed very plainly, the woman
thought he was a pauper and offered him a few cents to fill her buckets with
water. He happily drew the water for her but refused any payment, explaining
that she could pay him next time. When she later realized that the person
she had asked to do the menial task was none other than Rav Zundel, a famous
tzaddik, she came to him pleading forgiveness. He smiled and explained that
there was certainly no need for any apologies. "On the contrary", he said to
her, "I owe you thanks for enabling me to fulfill this mitzvah of doing
chessed (acts of kindness) with my body".
'Ohev kesef lo yisva kesef'.
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in
Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).