Parashas Behaalosecha

Parashas Behaalosecha begins with a passage restating the mitzvah to light the menorah in the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The passage ends as follows (Bamidbar 8:4): “And this was the making of the menorah – a beaten work of gold, from its base to its flowers it was beaten work; according to the image that Hashem had shown Moshe, thus he made the menorah.” The Midrash remarks (Bamidbar Rabbah 15:4): “It is not written ‘thus Moshe made the menorah,’ but rather ‘thus he made the menorah,’ without specifying who made it. And who actually made it? The Holy One Blessed Be He.”
Further on, in Bamidbar Rabbah 15:6, the Midrash comments on the fact that the passage about the menorah appears right after the account at the end of parashas Naso of the offerings the twelve tribal princes brought during the Mishkan’s inauguration ceremony. The Midrash relates that Aharon was upset that his tribe, the tribe of Levi, did not have the chance to bring an offering in this ceremony. He was worried that some flaw in him caused the tribe of Levi to lose out. Hashem responded by telling him that his lot is better than that of the princes. He went on to explain that the practice of bringing offerings would continue only while the Mishkan or Beis HaMikdash stood, but the menorah would abide forever. In addition, the mitzvah conveyed to Aharon and his descendants to bestow on the Jewish People a special set of blessings (Birkas Kohanim) would also abide forever. We presented previously one of the Maggid’s explanations on this Midrash, where the lighting of lights on Chanukah is regarded as an extension of the lighting of the menorah in the Mishkan and the Beis HaMikdash. Here we present another explanation, which links this Midrash to the one we quoted in the previous paragraph.
The Maggid’s starting point is Yaakov’s dream about the ladder extending from earth to heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it. The Maggid explains that the angels ascend to transport our prayers and acts of service to Hashem from earth to heaven, and then descend to earth with the blessing that our prayers and acts of service generated. In the early stages of Jewish history, the Mishkan and the Beis HaMikdash served as the focal point of this system, and so it will be again in the end of days when the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt. The Midrash in Bamidbar Rabbah 15:12 says that on the day that Moshe erected the Mishkan on earth, a corresponding Mishkan was erected in heaven. The Maggid explains that as the service was performed in Moshe’s Mishkan, using the service vessels made by Betzalel and his staff, the spiritual elements of the acts of service rose up to the Mishkan in heaven and went through a parallel process of service there.
We consider now the inauguration of the Mishkan. The Hebrew term for inauguration, chinuch, bears the meaning of preparing something for its intended use. In connection with the inauguration of the Mishkan, the Maggid draws an analogy to a road. In the Maggid’s time, a new road that had not yet been used was hard to travel upon. The road would become suitable for general travel only after it had been broken in by people with strong wagons bearing heavy loads. The path linking the Mishkan to heaven had to undergo a similar breaking-in process. This process was accomplished through the inaugural offerings of the tribal princes, who were men of awesome spiritual stature, whose offerings bore great spiritual weight.
Now, in general, the acts of service in Moshe’s Mishkan came to completion only when their spiritual elements reached the Mishkan in heaven and went through the service performed there. There was one exception: the lighting of the menorah. As the Midrash teaches, the menorah in Moshe’s Mishkan was not the work of man – it was made by Hashem Himself. Consequently, once Aharon lit the menorah in Moshe’s Mishkan, the service of lighting the menorah was complete, without need for the spiritual elements of the service to travel up to the Mishkan in heaven for further processing.
The Maggid brings out the idea with analogy. When a person buys on credit, usually he makes a small down payment on the spot, and then pays the rest later. The down payment constitutes a preliminary stage of the transaction. But if a buyer pays the full price on the spot, the transaction is completed immediately. Similarly, all the acts of service in the Mishkan had to undergo an inauguration process, except for the lighting of the menorah. As we explained, the act of bringing an offering did not reach completion until the spiritual elements of the offering were offered in the Mishkan in heaven. Accordingly, as reported in Sifra, Shemini 15, when Moshe completed the building of the Mishkan, he prayed (Tehillim 90:17): “May the sublimity of our Master, our God, come down upon us. Our handiwork, establish for us; our handiwork, establish it.” He was praying that the acts of service performed in the Mishkan would undergo the full process of completion in the Mishkan in heaven. But the act of lighting the menorah came to completion immediately.
Accordingly, with the menorah there was no need for an inauguration procedure; there was no need to break in a path to convey the spiritual elements of the menorah lighting to the Mishkan in heaven. Thus, when Aharon felt upset at not participating in the inauguration of the Mishkan, Hashem reassured him by explaining to him the fundamental difference between the lighting of the menorah and the rest of the service performed in the Mishkan. Aharon’s lot was greater than that of the princes, for the lighting of the menorah was a uniquely lofty component of the service. Moreover, the practice of bringing offerings would continue only while the Mishkan or Beis HaMikdash stood, but the menorah would abide forever.
The Maggid goes on to describe the eternal aspect of the menorah. David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 119:89): “Forever, Hashem, Your word stands firm in heaven.” Just as Hashem is eternal, so, too, His works are eternal. Accordingly, the Midrash in Bamidbar Rabbah 15:10 relates when the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, the menorah was not destroyed, but rather was hidden away. The Midrash lists five things were hidden away when the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed – the Holy Ark, the menorah, the fire, the spirit of Divine inspiration, and the keruvim (cherubs). The Midrash states that they will all be restored when the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt in the end of days.
The Midrash in Bamidbar Rabbah 15:6 concludes by saying that Hashem told Aharon that the blessings with which he and his descendants would bless the Jewish People would also abide forever. In this vein, in connection with Birkas Kohanim, the Midrash in Bamidbar Rabbah 11:2 expounds:
Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to the Jewish People: “Even though I told the Kohanim to bless you, I stand along with them and bless you.” Therefore, the Kohanim spread out their hands, to indicate that the Holy One Blessed Be He is standing behind them. Thus it is written (Shir HaShirim 2:9): “He watches through the windows; He peers through the shutters.” He watches through the windows – from between the shoulders of the Kohanim. He peers through the shutters – from between the fingers of the Kohanim.
Like the lighting of the menorah, Birkas Kohanim did not have to undergo any inauguration process. Because Hashem plays a direct part in the bestowal of the blessings, the service of bestowing the blessings came to completion immediately, without any need of any transfer between earth and heaven. For the same reason, Birkas Kohanim continues to be practiced over the entire course of time.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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