Chanukah 5781

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Intellectual superiority[1]

בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ: והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשך על-פני תהום וגו’‏
In the beginning of G-d’s creating of the Heaven and the Earth. The land was unformed[2] and empty[3], and darkness on the surface of the deep…[4]

Our Sages teach us[5] that it was predetermined[6] that the Jewish people would undergo four periods of subjugation. These periods were caused by four kingdoms, all alluded to in scripture: Babylonia, Persia / Media, Greece, and Rome. The verse that describes the early process of creation says that the land was tohu (unformed), bohu (empty), and darkness on the surface of the deep. Tohu refers to Babylonia, vohu refers to Persia / Media, darkness refers to Greece, and the deep refers to Rome. Our Sages clarify that the reason that Greece is referred to as darkness because they darkened the eyes of the Jewish people with their decrees. How are the other kingdoms alluded to with these adjectives?

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Beha’alosecha 5779

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The three pillars of a positive character[1]

דבר אל-אהרן ואמרת אליו בהעלותך את-הנרת אל-מול פני המנורה יאירו שבעת הנרות: ויעש כן אהרן אל מול פני המנורה העלה נרתיה כאשר צוה יקוק את-משה
Speak to Aharon and say to him: When you ignite the lights, let them illuminate towards the center of the Menorah[2]. Aharon did so; he ignited its lights towards the center of the Menorah, as Hashem commanded Moshe[3]

This week’s parsha begins by discussing the Menorah, including its make and how it was lit[4]. The Torah uses an unusual way to describe the lighting of the Menorah wicks: בהעלותך. Literally, with your raising up the lights. There are many things learned from this, but one of them is the fact that Aharon was instructed to construct a three-step block of stone in front of the Menorah[5]. Meaning, the verse is telling Aharon and his descendants to “go up” to light the Menorah, using these steps. The next verse teaches us that Aharon properly constructed these steps. We could say that this was a practical necessity, in order to reach the top of the Menorah[6]. Why though were there specifically three steps[7]? Also, was there any more significance to this steppingstone?

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Tetzaveh 5779

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The unnecessary lights[1]

ואתה תצוה את-בני ישראל ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך כתית למאור להעלות נר תמיד: באהל מעוד מחוץ לפרכת וגו’ חקת עולם לדרתם מאת בני ישראל
You shall command the Children of Israel, that they should take to you highly purified, crushed oil for illumination, to ignite a constant flame. [It will be] in the Tent of Meeting, outside the Paroches curtain…an everlasting decree for their generations, from the Children of Israel[2]

The parsha begins with the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah in the Temple. This command seems highly out of place. It would have belonged nicely after the Mishkan was erected in its place, and not to be sandwiched between the parsha of the Temple vessels and the parsha of the Kohanic garments. Why was it placed here? As well, there’s a different parsha later[3] in the Torah dedicated to the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah. These verses in our parsha would have belonged better there. Finally, the end of the verse appears unnecessary. It could have simply ended by saying that the Menorah is an everlasting decree for their generations. What do the words, “from the Children of Israel”, add to our understanding?

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