“Gershon, please come see me during lunch break after you finish eating,” Rabbi Rothman said. “I’d like to speak to you.”

Gershon wondered what his teacher wanted. So did the other boys in the class. Gershon was one of the best students in the fifth grade. He was a serious pupil and a nice boy. Everyone liked him.

Gershon hurried through his lunch and got permission to bentsch early. He met Rabbi Rothman in the teachers’ room.

“I don’t want to take up all of your recess time,” began Rabbi Rothman, “so I’ll get straight to the point. It’s about the test in mishnayos that you will be having next week.

“I started studying already,” Gershon told his teacher. “I want to make sure I really know the mishnayos well.”

“Good for you, Gershon,” Rabbi Rothman complimented him. “I know you’re a studious boy, and that’s just why I asked to see you. I would like you to study with Levi and help him prepare for the test.”

Gershon could not hold back a frown. Levi was a fun boy to be with, but he wasn’t a serious learner. Gershon often helped him with homework, and it always took twice as long as it would have taken him to do it himself. Gershon felt uncomfortable. He found it hard to tell his teacher that he didn’t want to do as he was asked.

“I could learn much better on my own,” he finally said quietly.

“I know, Gershon,” said Rabbi Rothman with a smile. “As a matter of fact, I can guess the mark you’ll get even before you take the test. You are high on the list of fifth graders who make me very proud. But we have to think about the others who are not part of this group. In fact, this week’s parshah tells us why.”

In Parshas Tzav, the Torah teaches us laws about the korbanos and the mizbeach upon which they were offered. There is one particular law that Rashi learns from the pessukim that I want to talk about. Rashi tells us that the menorah was lit from the fire that was constantly burning on the mizbeach hanechoshes, the mizbeach made of copper.

“But Rabbi Rothman,” asked Gershon, “the menorah stood inside the Kodesh right next to the mizbeach hazahov, the mizbeach made of gold. Why should the kohain have had to go out to the court where mizbeach hanechoshes stood and take the fire from there? It would have been much easier for him to light the fire inside the Kodesh.”

“That’s just the point, Gershon,” Rabbi Rothman replied. “A person who is a Torah scholar is like a menorah. From where does the menorah get its light? That light comes from the mizbeach hanechoshes which stood outside. It is the act of going out beyond his own group — reaching out to others who are outside — that gives a ‘menorah Jew’ the light to shine brightly.”

(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, pgs. 55-56)