דבר אל-אהרן ואמרת אליו בהעלתך את הנרת
Speak to Aaron, and say to him, When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the Menorah
Rashi comments: Why does the chapter of the Menorah follow the chapter of the princes? Because when Aaron saw the princes participating in the dedication of the Tabernacle, he was disturbed that neither he nor his tribe was with them at the dedication. The Holy One Blessed Be He therefore said to him, “By your life, your role is greater than theirs, because you will kindle and care for the lamps of the Menorah.”
This is astonishing. Who prevented Aaron from participating in the dedication of the altar? The princes were not commanded by the Eternal to bring their offerings; they did so purely out of the goodness of their hearts. Nor did Moses know that the Eternal would accept the offerings of the princes until He told Moses that He would accept them. So, if Aaron was not moved to bring an offering of his own, was it appropriate for him to feel that he had been slighted by the Eternal? Why then was the Eternal so quick to assuage Aaron’s feelings by telling him that it was he would light the lamps of the Menorah? Moreover, what makes this particular task so special that He could say to Aaron that his role was greater than that of the princes? (See the commentary of the Ramban on this passage.)
But our master explained the difficulty with the following example. If a king honors his subjects by visiting and meeting with them in one of their towns, the townspeople come out to greet him on his arrival by offering him some gifts out of respect and receiving him in a festive ceremony. Moreover, the subjects also give honor to the ministers and officers of the king out of respect for the king. This is what the princes of Israel did of their own accord by bringing offerings that they themselves had donated to honor the of God of Israel for placing His Sanctuary in their midst (in the same manner described by the Midrash Rabbah at the beginning of seder Emor).
However, it would be inappropriate for the ministers and officers of the king who serve Him constantly to bring Him an offering at the very moment that they arrive with Him to visit His subjects. That is why Aaron and the tribe of Levi, as the representatives of the Eternal, could not join with the other princes, the representatives of the entire people, in bringing offerings to the Eternal. Having been chosen by the Eternal to stand before Him to serve Him, and to perform their duties in the Sanctuary, Aaron and the Levites were considered the agents of the Merciful One. Because the Princes, the leaders of the Children of Israel, had been given the opportunity to give honor to the most honored King, Aaron became envious of the princes, because on this occasion, he, as the priest of the exalted God, could not offer Him anything.
The Eternal therefore wanted to assuage Aaron’s disappointment by giving him the commandment to light the Menorah. And this corresponds to the end of the parable found in the Midrash Rabbah to seder Emor, for when the visiting king gratefully sees the honor with which his subjects have received him, he desires to reciprocate, and, as is befitting of a king, bestows his own gifts upon them. It is then that the minister of the king, the one in charge of his court, is designated to inform the people that the king wishes to honor them in return. This is what the Eternal did through Aaron when he lit the lamps of the Menorah, thereby showing the people that the Eternal would shine His countenance upon them for their good. As it is written in the Midrash Rabbah, “does the Eternal require the light of the Menorah? Rather the Menorah is lit to make it evident that the Divine Presence dwells within Israel.” For when the Eternal is angered to cast a man from the land, He hides His face from the man, as it is written (Deuteronomy 31:18): “ואנכי הסתר אסתיר פני מהם” (and I will surely hide my face from them) for the light of His countenance bestows life, favor, and kindness. When, however, He lifts up His countenance to them, it shows that He seeks their peace and well-being.
This is the meaning of what the Eternal said to Aaron “your position is greater than theirs,” because Aaron is the one who goes before the Eternal with a pillar of fire to inform the people of all the good that the Eternal has promised to do for them and to tell the Children of Israel that God is gracious unto them and they will enjoy all the goodness of the earth. (שביבי אש)
בהעלתך את הנרת
When you light the lamps
Rashi comments: That you must continue to kindle until the flame is burning by itself.
See what our master wrote concerning Rashi’s comment on “” in seder Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20) (שביבי אש)
ויאמרו האנשים ההמה אליו אנחנו טמאים לנפש אדם למה נגרע לבלתי הקריב את קרבן י-הוה במעדו בתוך בני ישׂראל
And those men said to him, we are defiled by the dead body of a man; why are we kept back, so that we may not offer an offering to the Lord in his appointed season among the people of Israel?
See Rashi and the Sifri who say that the ritually unclean ones were asking only to have blood sprinkled upon them by the priests. They interpret the verse in this way, because otherwise why would those who were ritually unclean have asked “למה נגרע” (why are we being kept back from offering a sacrifice to our God?”
But our master explains that Moses and the elders had already received the commandment to bring the Paschal offering on the fourteenth of Nisan from the verse above (Numbers 9:3): “תעשו אתו במעדו” (you shall keep it in its appointed season), from which the Sages infer (Pesahim 77a) that the Paschal offering is brought even on the Sabbath and even if a majority of the people are ritually unclean, before they were taught the law of Pesah Sheini. What they did not yet know was the difference between the ritual uncleanliness of the entire congregation (ציבור) and that of a single individual (יחיד). It was this point that the ritually unclean men were raising with Moses when they asked: “למה נגרע לבלתי הקריב את קרבן יהוה במעדו בתוך בני ישׂראל” (why should we be too few, so that we are not permitted to bring the offering of the Lord in its appointed season among the children of Israel).
Their argument was that if “במעדו” teaches that the Pascal offering is brought even in a state of ritual impurity, then why should they be ineligible to bring the Paschal offering merely because of their fewness? So, Moses, not yet fully comprehending the matter himself, said to them (Numbers 9:8): “עמדו ואשמעה מה יצוה ה’ לכם” (wait, and I will hear what the Eternal will command concerning you). (שביבי אש)
והאיש משה ענו מאד מכל האדם אשר על פני האדמה
And the man Moses was very humble, more than any other men which were upon the face of the earth
In seder Noah it is written (Genesis 7:1): “כי אתך ראיתי צדיק לפני” (for you have I seen righteous before Me). Rashi comments:
It does not say here “צדיק תמים” (perfectly righteous) as it does above; hence we infer that only some of a person’s good qualities are enumerated in his presence, but all of his good qualities may be enumerated in his absence.
But, here, concerning Moses, who wrote the entire Torah, wasn’t this praise told entirely in his presence? Our master suggests that perhaps this is why the word “ענו” (humble) is written without the letter “י” so that it might be also be understood (if the missing “י” were placed after, instead of before, the “ו”) as ”ענוי” (afflicted), because Moses our master, may peace be upon him, was the most afflicted of men, for everyone sought to find fault with him, even his own sister, Miriam, speaking against him, which obviously is a great affliction. (שביבי אש)
והאיש משה ענו מאד מכל האדם אשר על פני האדמה
And the man Moses was very humble, more than any other men which were upon the face of the earth.
One may ask how did Moses surpass all other individuals in the character trait of humility. Our master explains that his surpassing humility exemplifies the words of the prophet (Jeremiah 9:22-23): “אל יתהלל חכם בחכמתו ואל יתהלל הגבור בגבורתו ואל יתהלל גבור בגבורתו כי אם בזאת יתהלל המתהלל השכל וידע אותי” (let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands, and knows Me). For only one who is enlightened to seek the Deity and to know the sublime knowledge is fit to be glorified and praised. But not so for the one who is wise or mighty or rich, for these are all the gift of God. And when the prophet concludes “’כי באלה חפצתי נאם ה” (for in these things I delight, says the Lord) he meant to say that it is by the will of God that the wise man became wise, the mighty man mighty and the rich man rich.
We have previously cited the Ran in his Twelve Drashot that the level to which Moses our master ascended to know the Eternal face to face was not owing to his own preparation. For it is beyond human capacity to elevate himself to be able to achieve such greatness; without Divine assistance, it would have been possible for any mortal to do so. Only out of the necessity that the Torah be given through Moses, did the Eternal elevate him to such a lofty level. Moses’s greatness was thus a gift from the Almighty. (See what we have written concerning this in Seder Balak). Moses therefore took no glory even from his knowledge and understanding of the Eternal, his knowledge and understanding having been given to him entirely by the hand of the Eternal. And that is why he was called the most humble of all men. (שביבי אש)