D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


“And G-d spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to Aaron and say to him: When you kindle the lamps (of the Menorah), towards the face of the Menorah shall their light be directed” (Numbers Ch.8 v.1-2).  Rashi explains that when Aaron saw the sacrificial offerings the head of the tribe offered at the dedication of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), he felt bad that the tribe of Levi (of which he was part) was not included. The reason the Levites and the Kohanim ( priests who were Levites descended from Aaron) were not included in the number of tribes, and were not given an inheritance in the Land of Israel is as follows: During the incident of the golden calf the Levites were the only tribe that was not at all involved. This was typical of the Levites, as even during the bitter years of enslavement in Egypt they had never been enslaved, as they were too busy studying Torah and Pharoh left them alone.

These two things displayed the true essence of the Levites: spirituality. G-d did not want them to be worrying about tending to their land. This was not to be their role; rather, they would be the caretakers of the Temple (The Levites sang every day in the Tabernacle/Temple and transported the Tabernacle when the Jews traveled; the Kohanim were in charge of the actual running of the Tabernacle/Temple, i.e. sacrifices, lighting the Menorah, etc…). If the Levites were in charge of the running of the Temple, why would Aaron care that they were not represented at the tribe’s offerings at the dedication of the Tabernacle?                                                                        

Rabbi Gedalya Schorr, Dean of Rabbinical Seminary Torah V’Da’as, who passed away in 1979, explains: Each head of a tribe offered up the exact same sacrifice (see Numbers Ch.7). Moshe did not want to accept their sacrificial offerings, however, as he did not understand their intentions behind the offerings, until G-d told him to accept it. This was one of the first manifestations of the Oral Law. The body of each sacrifice was identical. The reason and intent each one put behind the offering was different.

This is how we relate to the Oral Law. The body of law is the same for every Jew (with minor variation in detail). But the intent behind it can be different for each Jew. The Vilna Gaon says that when the Jews accepted the Torah each person related to it in 70 different ways.                                                                        

This concept answers the age-old dilemma. How can a Jew retain his individuality while at the same time keeping the Torah the same as millions of other people.

When Aaron saw he did not have an offering he worried that perhaps the Levites would not be able to express their individuality through the Oral Law. Then Moshe appeased him by saying, “You will have the honor of the daily lighting of the Menorah.”                                

The Menorah is the symbol of the Oral law. As opposed to the Ark, which was interacted with once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Menorah was interacted with every day. This is metaphorical to our relationship with the Written and the Oral Law. The Written law, although to be studied, is the word of G-d. The Oral Law, although one cannot make up random laws at will, is meant for us as humans to fulfill. Thus, even if one is proven right in the Heavenly court, yet proven wrong in the earthly court, the person is judged to be wrong. The Torah was given to man, to be used by man (see Talmud Tractate Bava Metsia 87b).

 Constant interaction and study of the Torah are required. This is similar to the Menorah, which symbolizes the Jewish peoples relationship to the Torah.

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