The association of Aharon, and of all later High Priests of Israel, with the
task of the daily lighting of the menorah/candelabra in the Temple is
significant. In our current technologically advanced era, turning on the
lights in a home or a room is hardly considered to be a difficult or
especially meaningful event. The flick of a switch floods the area with
light and illumination.
However, when light is sourced from candles, wicks and oil it is a more
complicated matter. To produce this type of light requires a modicum of
motor skills, patience and great attention to detail. Many problems, even
fatalities, may be caused by improperly lighting the candelabra such as the
one in the Temple, with its imposing size and dimension.
Because of the care and attention that was needed to light the candelabra in
the Temple, and to emphasize the holy nature of the task and of the
candelabra itself, caring for it and kindling it was assigned to the highest
priest of Israel, Aharon. He and his successors symbolized light. They
represented hope, optimism, holiness, purpose and peace. This physical
representation of Aharon’s general role in Jewish society served to remind
all of the purpose of the Temple, its laws and rituals and infused the Godly
spirit into Jewish society generally.
The Torah characterizes itself as light and radiance. The commandments are
the candles and the kindling, and the Torah – its study and its observance –
becomes the source of light itself for all generations of Jews. It became
the personal task of each and every High Priest of Israel to see to it that
this light was kept eternally burning and refreshed daily.
It is interesting to note that the light of the menorah was not seen
generally by the public, as not everyone had access to the area of the
Temple where the menorah stood. But, it was seen daily by the High Priest
himself and the radiance emanating from the menorah inspired him to be the
constant disseminator of light, Torah, social justice and tranquility within
This essential societal task naturally entailed the same type of precision,
persistence and attention to detail, coupled with loving care and innate
skills that was present when the High Priest serviced the physical lighting
of the menorah in the Temple daily. The Talmud teaches us that the clothing
of the High Priest was not to be soiled when he appeared in public view.
Lighting the menorah can be a dirty job if one is not careful, as can any
societal activity, no matter how well intentioned it may have been at the
The process and commandment of lighting the menorah served as a constant
reminder to the High Priest of the important role that he was to always play
in the furtherance of Torah and holiness in Jewish society.
Rabbi Berel Wein