1. Both the beginning and the conclusion of this week’s Torah reading mention the kindling of the menorah in the Sanctuary. Significantly, in the conclusion of the Torah reading, the kindling of the menorah is coupled with bringing the ketores, the incense offering: “Aharon shall burn incense each morning when he cleans the lamps. And he shall burn incense in the evening when he kindles the lamps.”1

As mentioned frequently,2 the use of the word besochem in the verse, “And you shall make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within,” implies that G‑d dwells, not only in the physical sanctuaries and Batei Mikdashos the Jews have constructed, but also within the spiritual sanctuary that exists in every Jew’s heart. Accordingly, all the different tasks carried out in the Sanctuary have parallels in our divine service.3

The relevance of the kindling of the menorah and the bringing of the incense offering in the above context can be understood by the analysis of their place in Parshas Tetzaveh, a Torah reading which is devoted almost exclusively to the concept of priesthood. This Torah reading contains a lengthy explanation of the priestly garments and a description of the sacrifices brought when the priests were inaugurated into the service of the Sanctuary.

Indeed, the mention of these services in this Torah reading is problematic in nature. Seemingly, the kindling of the menorah should have been mentioned in Parshas Terumah with the description of its structure. Similarly, it would appear that the description of the fashioning of the incense altar — and hence, the bringing of the incense offering — should have been included in that Torah reading, together with the description of the Ark, the menorah, the Table for the Showbread, the external altar and the other structural elements of the Sanctuary.

The above questions can be resolved as follows: The incense altar and its offering are mentioned as the final element of the construction of the Sanctuary and the preparations for its service to emphasize its unique importance. Indeed, we find that the Divine Presence did not rest in the Sanctuary until the incense offering was brought.

What is the reason for this uniqueness? Our Sages explain that the sacrifices offered on the altar in the courtyard of the Sanctuary relate to a Jew’s body, while the incense offering brought on the inner altar relates to a Jew’s soul.4

This concept is also reflected in the inferences that can be drawn from the Hebrew names used to describe these different offerings. The Hebrew for sacrifice is korban, which has its root in the word kerov, meaning “close.” In contrast, the Hebrew for incense offering ketores relates to the root ketar, the Aramaic for “bond.”5 By bringing a sacrifice, a Jew draws close to G‑d. Through the incense offering, however, a Jew and G‑d become fused in total unity.

Thus, after the Torah describes the preparations necessary for the Sanctuary which make it possible for the Divine Presence to dwell among — and thus within — the Jewish people, it mentions the incense offering which allows for a bond of oneness to be established between them.6

More particularly, the bond established by the incense offering refers to the soul’s connection to G‑d at the level of yechidah, an unparalleled essential union. The connection to this level is reflected in that:

a) The incense altar was one cubit by one cubit, reflecting the connection to the level of soul associated with oneness;

b) There were eleven spices used in the incense offering. Our conscious powers are structured in a set of ten. The number eleven, by contrast, relates to a dimension of the soul and G‑d that transcends this set, the level described by the phrase, “You are one, but not in a numerical sense.”7

c) When the incense offering was brought, the priest making the offering was alone with G‑d. No one was allowed in the Heichal and between the Ulam and Mizbeiach (See Rambam, Temidim U’Musofim 3:3). And in a greater sense, this concept is reflected in the fact that when the High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, he brought an incense offering. This represented a fusion of the yechidah of time, Yom Kippur, with the yechidah of place, the Holy of Holies, and the yechidah of soul, the High Priest.8

As mentioned above, the incense offering is associated with the menorah. The menorah refers to the Jewish people as reflected in the verse “The lamp of G‑d is the soul of man.” And the Jewish soul is given the potential to shine with light through the Torah and its mitzvos as it is written, “A mitzvah is a lamp, and Torah, light.”

The kindling of the menorah was intended to draw this light into the world at large. This is reflected in the construction of the windows of the Beis HaMikdash which were designed with their inner side narrower than their outer side. This indicated that their intent was not to bring in light from the outside, but to allow the light from the menorah to radiate forth to the world. In a similar context, our Sages describe the menorah as “testimony to all the inhabitants of the world that the Divine Presence rests in Israel.”

Based on the above, we can appreciate the connection the kindling of the menorah shares with the incense offering and with Parshas Tetzaveh. It is through the menorah that the inner bond established through the incense offering is radiated throughout the world at large.9

A similar concept applies in regard to Parshas Tetzaveh. The name Tetzaveh relates to the word tzavsa which means “connection.” To emphasize the importance of spreading the connection between G‑d and the Jewish people throughout the world, Parshas Tetzaveh begins with the description of the kindling of the menorah. Although the principle focus of this Torah reading is on the priests, by beginning with the kindling of the menorah, attention is drawn to the primary purpose of the priests’ service, to reveal the Divine Presence in the world at large.

These concepts must be paralleled in our divine service every day. Every day, a person arises as “a new creation.” Therefore, every day, we must renew the inner bond we share with G‑d as expressed by our recitation of the verses concerning the bringing of the incense offering.10 Similarly, we mention how this offering was brought in connection with the cleaning and the kindling of the menorah. This indicates how the bond between us and G‑d must be extended into our worldly affairs, causing them to be carried out in the spirit of “All your deeds shall be for the sake of heaven,” and “Know Him in all your ways.”

We see a parallel to this in our prayer service. When reciting the Shema a Jew should “give his soul over to G‑d.” This connection is continued in the Shemoneh Esreh, when he stands before G‑d with the nullification of a subject in the presence of his king.

After the conclusion of the morning prayers, we divert our attention to our worldly activities. In the midst of these activities, it is impossible to maintain the same level of attachment to G‑d experienced during prayer.11 Nevertheless, in the midst of our involvement in worldly matters, the essential connection established with G‑d continues to have a residual effect — and that effect is apparent in one’s conduct. And thus our ketores bond with G‑d forges an everlasting union.

2. As mentioned above, the halachah — as decided by the Rambam and the Sefer Mitzvos Gadol — is that the incense offering is brought between the cleaning of the first five and the final two lamps of the menorah. In this light, it is problematic that in the daily liturgy, we recite the order of the priestly functions in accordance with the view of Abba Shaul, a minority opinion, who maintains that:

The cleaning of the five lamps [of the menorah] preceded the sprinkling of the blood of the daily burnt offering. The sprinkling of the blood of the daily burnt offering preceded the cleaning of the [remaining] two lamps [of the menorah]. The cleaning of the two lamps [of the menorah] preceded the incense offering.

According to this view, the incense offering is brought after the cleaning of the menorah has been completed entirely.

The Beis Yosef attempts to reconcile this difficulty, explaining that the Rambam’s ruling follows the principle that, in a difference of opinion between the Sages, the majority view is accepted. On the other hand:

Since people at large discovered that “Abbaye recounted the order of priestly functions in accordance with the view of Abba Shaul,” it would appear that he [Abbaye] maintains that the halachah follows this view. Hence, they did not wish to change that order.

I.e., the Beis Yosef is explaining that since a sage of the later Talmudic period followed Abba Shaul’s view, then the principle “the halachah is in accordance with the later authority” should be followed.

This explanation is still problematic: The Rambam surely knew of Abbaye’s treatment of the matter and still ruled that the halachah follows the Sages’ view. Furthermore, in our recitation of the order of the offerings in the Beis HaMikdash in the Avodah section of the Yom Kippur liturgy, the view of the Sages is accepted and we say that the bringing of the incense offering precedes the cleaning of the final two lamps.

Within the context of the application of these concepts in our personal divine service, these difficulties can be explained as follows: a) The Hebrew expression used by the Beis Yosef for the phrase “people at large discovered” is motzu haolam. The word olam (עולם) relates to the word helam (העלם), meaning “concealment.” I.e., this perspective reflects the concealment of G‑d prevalent within the time of exile. This is also reflected by the name Abbaye which our Sages interpret as an acronym for the Hebrew words (אשר בך ירוחם יתום) meaning “In You, an orphan will take comfort.”12 For in the time of exile, the Jews are like orphans, “children who have been exiled from their Father’s table.”13

At such a time, it is difficult for the inner bond with G‑d represented by the incense offering to be revealed in the world at large, the influence of the menorah. Therefore, in our daily prayers, these two services are not coupled together. On Yom Kippur, however, when every Jew is elevated to a higher spiritual rung and experiences, in microcosm, the connection to G‑d established by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies,14 the possibility exists for the two services to be fused. At this time, a Jew’s inner bond with G‑d can radiate forth to the world at large. Furthermore, the inner bond established on Yom Kippur is not self-contained and affects our conduct throughout the year as well.

3. Significantly, Parshas Tetzaveh which is associated with these two services is always read in the month of Adar. Among the reasons for this is that it is on Rosh Chodesh Adar a pronouncement is issued, reminding the people to make their annual donation of a half-shekel to purchase the offerings for the Beis HaMikdash. Thus this is a month when the services associated with the two thrusts mentioned above are renewed. Furthermore, this renewal is characterized by joy, as our Sages state, “When Adar enters, we increase our joy.”

In particular, there is a connection with the present date, the eleventh of Adar. For as explained above, eleven is associated with the level of yechidah. Similarly, Shabbos is associated with this same quality as reflected in our Sages’ statement that every day of the week possesses “a partner” with the exception of Shabbos. And therefore, the Jewish people were designated as the Shabbos’ partner, for they are also unique among the nations.

The positive influence of the eleventh of Adar is enhanced by the service of the tenth of Adar. Ten refers to the complete expression of our ten soul powers, i.e., the spiritual powers which are under our conscious control. This creates a setting for the revelation of the eleventh potential, the quality of yechidah which is transcendent in nature.

May everyone internalize the inner bond with G‑d symbolized by the ketores offering. And may we make efforts, in the spirit of the kindling of the menorah which spreads light outward, to share these concepts with others. Every individual should try to influence at least ten other Jews and, if possible, extend his influence to every member of our people.15

These efforts, the internalization of the services of the Beis HaMikdash in the heart of every Jew, a “sanctuary in microcosm,” will hasten the coming of the era when we will merit the revelation of the Beis HaMikdash itself. May this take place in the immediate future.