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Behaloscha: The Light of the Soul

וידבר ה' אל משה לאמר, דבר אל אהרן ואמרת אליו בהעלותך את הנרות אל מול פני המנורה יאירו שבעת הנרות.

“And Hashem spoke to Moshe so to say: Speak to Aharon and tell him, ‘When you bring up the lights, towards the face of the Menorah you shall light seven lights.’” (Bamidbar 8:2)

Rashi explains that the face of the menorah means the central branch, calling it the “body of the menorah.” Why does Rashi describe the menorah with the word “body,” which usually refers to a living being?

Moshe was told to instruct Aharon that the six lights on both sides of the menorah should lean towards the central light. If so, why does the verse say that the seven lights should be lit towards the center of the menorah, when one of those lights was the central light? The Torah should have said that the six lights should be lit towards the face of the menorah.

It is also interesting that the Torah restates in the following verses that Aharon did as he was told, and lit the lights towards the center of the menorah. Why is this so important that the Torah must make special mention of it once again? Rashi sheds some light on this by telling us that the repetitive verse “tells the praise of Aharon, that he didn’t change anything.” The commentators are puzzled by this. Why would Aharon be considered especially praiseworthy for not changing anything from Hashem’s command? Who would dare change anything after being commanded directly by Hashem?

The verses can be explained with the following insight: Hashem created the world in a physical form, with physical bodies that contain holy souls. The main reason for creating the world is as the Midrash explains (Tanchuma Naso 16): “Hashem desired to make for Himself a dwelling place in the lower world.” There are enough angels in heaven who serve Hashem uninhibited and without distraction. Hashem wants physical beings to purify themselves by serving Him.

Our sages tell us that one is required to rejoice on Yom Tov with meat, because “There is no joy without basar - meat.” The Rebbe Reb Ber of Mezritch interpreted this statement homiletically as follows: “There is no greater joy for Hashem as when a basar - human being serves Him and does His will.” People have physical bodies and therefore face lots of challenges and hardships when it comes to serving Hashem. Their perseverance and commitment to overcome these challenges bring great joy to Hashem.

Some tzaddikim would instruct people who wished to repent to inflict their bodies by fasting and punishing themselves. They taught these people to break the body in order to subdue their physical inclinations. Fasting and inflicting the body is the easiest way to suppress one’s physical self and thus enable the neshama’s needs to be heard.

However, the holy Baal Shem Tov and his disciples taught us a different way. Instead of subduing the body to reach the neshama, he taught us that the neshama’s light should be brought out from within. Instead of inflicting the body, the opposite should be done – the body should be given the opportunity to feel the sweetness of the soul and to take pleasure in becoming close to our beloved Father in Heaven. Although this method is the ideal way, it is a lot more difficult than the other method. However, once it is achieved, the person reaches a far loftier level and becomes much closer to Hashem. He doesn’t have to fast or punish his body; instead, he relishes the spiritual pleasure of being close to Hashem, as it says (Tehillim 73:28), “Closeness to Hashem is good for me!”

With this understanding, we can now explain the verse. Aharon was a tzaddik who deeply loved all Jews and brought them close to the Torah. So Hashem told him: You want to bring people close to Me? There are two ways to do this. One way is to tell people to fast and inflict themselves, and this was the way chosen by many great tzaddikim who told people in search of repentance to punish their bodies. On the other hand, there were tzaddikim who felt that this would be too difficult, so they told the person to eat and drink and contemplate Hashem’s great kindness. They became humble and full of gratitude, and in result they would repent out of love for Hashem.

This is the meaning of the verse: “When you bring up the lights” – when you wish to ignite the spark within a soul, as it says (Mishlei 20:27), “The light of G-d is the soul of man” – then “towards the body… you shall light” – don’t break the person’s body, but instead bring up the light from within him so that even his body should be inspired and lean towards the light.

The Torah continues by telling us that Aharon did just that, and Rashi comments that this tells us Aharon’s praise that he didn’t change anything. Why is this so praiseworthy? Because it is much more difficult for the tzaddik to shine the light of Hashem into a person without inflicting the body! It is much easier to achieve greatness by fasting and punishing the body, but a tzaddik who brings up the person’s inner light is achieving something far more difficult. This is why Aharon is being praised for not changing Hashem’s directive to “bring up the lights.” Even though it is more difficult for the tzaddik to do so, Aharon fulfilled Hashem’s command exactly as he was told, because he understood that this way is easier for the person who is seeking closeness to Hashem.

May Hashem grant that all souls should be brought towards the Seven Lights, towards the seven attributes of greatness. Then each and every person would be brought close to Hashem and would repent out of love and joy. And then Hashem would help everyone with whatever they need, and we will merit greeting Moshiach speedily in our days, Amein.


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