BEHA’ALOSCHA (Numbers, 8:1-12:16) — “Happy Passover . . . er . . .Chanukah!”

Aaron was distraught.

It was the twelfth of Nissan, three days before Passover.  As we read at the end of last week’s Torah Portion, the Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle, had been built and dedicated.  For twelve days, leaders of the respective tribes of Israel presented their gifts for the dedication of the Altar.  (See “Play It Again, Achira”.) They donated vessels of silver and gold, containing flour and oil for meal offerings on the Altar.  They gave incense and livestock for theTempleService.  Each day, a representative of a different tribe tendered his generous gift.  Every tribe was represented.   Every tribe but one.

Aaron and his fellow Levites were on the outside looking in.  They had not been included in the ceremony.  The other twelve got to participate; the Tribe of Levi did not.  Aaron feared that he and his tribe had been found unworthy of being part of the dedication of the Tabernacle due to his involvement in the Golden calf episode.

G-d assured Moses that his brother had no reason to worry: “Speak to Aaron, and tell him, ‘When you will light the flames, the seven flames will shine toward the front of the Menorah.’”  (Numbers, 8:2)

Midrash Tanchumah explains that G-d was telling Moses that Aaron should not feel badly about being excluded from the Chanukah (Literally, “consecration ceremony”) of the Altar.  Aaron was responsible for a much more important role — the daily kindling of the Menorah.

There are many reasons given as to why the daily lighting of the Menorah was more important than the generous gifts of the other tribal leaders.  However, many commentaries prefer to emphasize a reference to a DIFFERENT lighting of the Menorah.

Ramban — Nachmanides, points out that the selection of the Hebrew word Chanukah is no coincidenceG-d’s message to Aaron was, “Don’t worry about the fact that your family was not involved in this Chanukah — Consecration Ceremony of the Altar.  I have a much more important Chanukah for your family.  The day will come when the enemies of Torah will desecrate My Temple.  They will offer pigs on My holy Altar and put up statues of Zeus.  They will defile most of the oil for My Menorah.

“Your children, Aaron, the Hasmonean Kohanim — Priests, will fight My enemies.  I will perform miracles for them.  I will allow them to defeat a formidable Syrian-Greek war machine.  They will ‘throw the bums out’ and re-dedicate My Altar and My Temple.  They will find that one jar of oil, and I will miraculously allow it to burn for eight days until they can produce more ritually pure oil.

“This Chanukah of the Altar that you didn’t do, don’t worry about it.  It is a wonderful act of dedication by your fellow Tribes of Israel.  But it is a one-shot deal.  The Chanukah of the Altar by the tribal leaders will only last as long as theTemple stands and offerings are brought on My holy Temple Mount.

“YOUR Chanukah, Aaron, will enlighten and inspire the People of Israel forever.”


“. . . the seven flames will shine toward the front of the Menorah.” Rashi explains that the three lamps on the west side of the Menorah and the three lamps on the east side of the Menorah, all pointed toward the central lamp. (“toward the front of the Menorah.”)

The wick of the central lamp was faced toward the Holy Ark.

My Rebbe, Rabbi David Feinstein, points out (Kol Dodi on the Torah, page 217) that the Menorah is symbolic of wisdom.  The position of the six outer lights directed toward the middle light, with the middle one in turn directed toward the Ark, tells us where all knowledge should be focused.

The various branches of knowledge, says Rabbi Feinstein, are all dependant upon Torah.  Mathematics and science can and should be used to help us serve G-d.  Any other use of such knowledge is of no value.

Consider the following.  Man’s harnessing of the atom has allowed us to create electricity.  It also allowed end the Second World War, saving countless American (and Japanese!) lives.  It has allowed just and free countries (such as theU.S.and probablyIsrael) to deter their enemies from attacking them.  Unfortunately, as we all fear today, it can be used in a very un-G-dly fashion.

Medical research has obviously saved countless lives.  That is G-d’s work.  One need only mention the name Mengele (I refuse to call him “Doctor”) to understand the extent of depravity that can come from an un-G-dly use of medicine.

The Menorah was made from one large chunk of gold, beaten into shape.  The seven branches of the Menorah all came from one source.  All branches of intelligence come from one source as well.  He Who said, “Build a Sukkah,” also created the trees for building material and the knowledge of architecture.  He Who said, “Circumcise your son on the eighth day,” also created a human body that produces Vitamin K (clotting factor) by the sixth or seventh day of life.

There’s a great T-shirt I once saw.  It has a picture of a light bulb, plugged into the following statement (in Hebrew) “And G-d said, ‘E= MC²’ . . . and there was light!”

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.


From the Archives

“Let ‘Em Eat Doughnuts!” (2010) 

Some people are just never satisfied.

…Manna falls from Heaven, and it tastes like whatever you feel like eating…However, there were objections.  Suddenly, everyone got hungry:

Who will feed us meat?  We remember the free fish we ate in Egypt; the cucumbers and the melons; the leeks, onions, and garlic.  Our souls are dried out; there’s nothing to look forward to but manna!” …Ahh!  The good old days!  Make bricks, be whipped by your Egyptian taskmasters, build pyramids, and watch Jewish children thrown into theNile.  Oh, and by the way, eat all the onions you want! …

Read more.


“G-d’s Partners” (2009)

…Israelasked G-d:  “Master of the World!  Why are You telling us to light candles before You??!!  You are the Light of the World…”

G-d responded:  “It is not that I need the light; rather I want you to give Me light just as I gave you light.  I want to raise your status before the nations of the world.  Let them say ‘Look howIsraelprovides light for He who illuminates the entire world.’ ”…

This Midrash is fascinating!  It seems to be saying that G-d gives us Commandments as a payback — You scratch My back, and I’ll scratch Yours!  What is this Midrash trying to tell us?…

Read more.


“Who’s Your Brother?” (2006)

… the Torah expects us to live a normal lifestyle.  G-d expects us to marry and raise children.  In fact, one requirement of a High Priest is that he be married.

The one, single exception to this rule was Moses…

Miriam happened to find out about this fact, and she wasn’t happy about it…

Miriam and Aaron, loving sister and brother of Moses, discussed the matter in Moses’ presence.  This was done totally without malice.  It was an act of constructive criticism.

It was also a monumental mistake.  G-d was furious…

Read more.


“Second Chance” (2005)

“It’s now or never.” So goes the saying.  A missed opportunity can’t be made up.  … when the time for performing a Mitzvah passes, it is too late; nothing can be done to right the wrong … There is a Mitzvah to fast on Yom Kippur.  You can’t say, on the day after Yom Kippur, “Oh, I was hungry yesterday, so I ate.  I guess I’ll fast today instead.”  Or, “Oh, last week was Rosh Hashanah, and I missed the sounding of the Shofar!  I’ll just do it now!”

Sorry.  It doesn’t work… Some people in the desert were unhappy with this concept…

Read more.


“The SEVEN Books of Moses?” (2004)

… I picked up my six-year-old nephew from Yeshiva the other day.  There were all these cute little kids, rambunctious with pent-up energy after a full day of school.  They were happy to have some free time after the discipline of a classroom.  Finally!  The pressure’s off!

There is nothing wrong with the above scenario.  Kids are kids.  The problem is when adults start acting like kids…

Read more.


“Happy Passover . . . er . . .Chanukah!” (2003)

Aaron was distraught.

…For twelve days, leaders of the respective tribes ofIsraelpresented their gifts for the dedication of the Altar.  …Each day, a representative of a different tribe tendered his generous gift.  Every tribe was represented.   Every tribe but one.

Aaron and his fellow Levites were on the outside looking in.  They had not been included in the ceremony. …  Aaron feared that he and his tribe had been found unworthy of being part of the dedication of the Tabernacle …

Read more.


“I’m the Greatest…and the Most Modest!” (2002)

 … if Moses was so humble, how did he manage to garner the Chutzpah to debate with G-d? … And what about the way he spoke to the Pharaoh?  Moses showed throughout his career that he was a man to be reckoned with.  Not exactly a wimp! …

Read more.


This is the weekly message at   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.


Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel ( and chaplain inMonsey,New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.


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Published in: on June 19, 2003 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  

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