The week’s Torah reading begins with a description of the command to kindle the Menorah, the candelabra in the Sanctuary and later in the Temple. After relating the command, it concludes the subject with the words: “And Aaron did so.” On that phrase, our Sages comment: “This relates Aaron’s praise, that he did not change,” i.e., he did not deviate from G‑d’s command.

What kind of praise is that? Why would one think that Aaron would deviate? Moses had received the command to light the Menorah from G‑d and conveyed it to Aaron. Is there any reason to think that he would do something other than what G‑d commanded?

Among the explanations of our Sages’ statement:

a) Aaron saw the spiritual impact of the kindling of the Menorah. The seven branches of the Menorah refer to the seven emotional qualities that make up our spiritual personalities. Kindling the lights implies inspiring each of those qualities to shine with G‑dly light. And kindling these lights on the earthly plane brings about an outpouring of light from the spiritual qualities that parallel our emotions. Aaron’s service was so lofty that it did not bring about any change or spiritual degradation in the radiance of that light. As it was revealed above, so too, was Aaron able to reveal it on this earthly plane.

b) Despite his knowledge of the tremendous implication of lighting the menorah, Aaron was able to steel himself and perform the physical actions precisely as commanded. Many people get excited when they realize the profound effect their actions have and they have trouble controlling themselves. Aaron mastered himself. Despite the knowledge he had and the happiness and love that knowledge evoked, Aaron did not spill the oil or stumble; he was able to maintain his composure and kindle the Menorah exactly as commanded.

c) Aaron did not change within himself. He felt no extra pride because of what he was doing. Rather he fulfilled G‑d’s command with the dedication of a simple servant.

d) Throughout his life, his enthusiasm while performing this mitzvah did not change. Day-in and day-out, he performed this action with the same enthusiasm and energy as when initially commanded. It was not a habitual repetition, but a new service each day, with new energy, joy, and vitality that reflected how he was drawing down new light from above.

Our Sages state that the kindling of the Menorah endures forever all time. Although the Temple is destroyed and its lights are not kindled in a physical sense, there are spiritual giants who like Aaron are able to spark the fires of our emotions and motivate us to fiery love for G‑d.

Looking to the Horizon

This week’s Torah reading also relates the journeys of the Jewish people through the desert. After having camped at Sinai for more than a year, they broke camp and began the trek to Eretz Yisrael. Our Sages explain that these journeys reflect an eternal pattern. In a larger sense, they can be understood as describing a paradigm that exists throughout our nation’s history. The entry into Eretz Yisrael represents the culmination of the process, the coming of Mashiach.

In this vein, our Rabbis note that the desert is called “the desert of the nations” and compare our people’s journey through it with their journey through “the desert of the nations” in our 2000 years of exile.

On the journey through the desert, the ark would be carried before the people. It’s like a child learning to walk. He stands. His parents stand somewhat away from him and the child steps toward them. As he proceeds forward, they take a step backward, maintaining eye-contact with him and leading him forward.

This was the pattern in which the ark led the people through the desert and this is the pattern, albeit without the conscious connection, with which G‑d is leading us on our collective journey until, together with Mashiach, we return to Eretz Yisrael.