by Rabbi Jay Spero
Menorah & the Incense
Spero at 862-9546 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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weeks portion deals with the Kohanim; the priests. It addresses their
selection, how they dressed, and how they were inaugurated. There are also
several responsibilities mentioned which were incumbent on the kohanim to do
every day: The lighting of the menorah (Shemos 27:21), the korban tamid, which
was the twice daily sacrificial offering (Ibid. 29:38), and the ketoras, the
incense, which was offered up also twice daily (Ibid. 30 v.7).
The twice-daily sacrificial offering symbolized the dedication of the nation.
While it was the kohanim who performed the service, they were representatives of
the entire nation. What is the significance of the menorah and the incense
The menorah has seven branches. The outer six, three on each side, symbolize the
physical world of creation. The seventh - middle - branch symbolizes Hashem. The
three outer flames on each side pointed towards the middle, symbolizing the
taking of all of our worldly endeavors and injecting them with spirituality to
make them kadosh special.
The menorah is lit with olive oil. The Slonimer Rebbe gives a beautiful
explanation as to why we use olive oil. He explains that the olive is unique
amongst fruits in its duality. It is a fruit that produces oil. But even
after the olive has been crushed, the oil now becomes a whole new object, a
vehicle for light. So too the Jewish nation, even after it appears we are
crushed, has a hidden light deep within us which shines through and enables us
to go on. The menorah represents illumination and clarity of the mind.
The ketoras the incense was a sweet smelling spice. The purpose of this
mitzva was to give honor and glory to the temple. People would walk by the
temple and due to the sweet smell would have a sweet association with it. But
there is another reason. It says in Psalms (ch.3 v.17) "Its ways are ways
of pleasantness." The "it" refers to the Torah. The sweet smell
is to remind us not to merely do the mitzvos (commandments), but rather to take
pleasure in the mitzvos, as they are sweet.
Rabbi Shamshon Rafael Hirsh, explains the relationship between the menorah and
the incense. The menorah represents the importance of the sechel the mind
in relationship to the commandments. The incense represents the complete
sublimation of all actions to make them something pleasing to Hashem. These two
together express the aim of the ennoblement of man in his relationship with
Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac
Synagogue in Buffalo.