“Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.'” (Num.8:1-2)
According to Rashi, HaShem is ministering to Aaron’s pain here. What pain? Aaron felt small, he says, because the Menorah service takes place at the same time that the inaugural offering of the princes of Israel was brought forth. According to the preeminent Torah commentator of Jewish history, Aaron felt weak and insignificant in the face of the exaltation of the princes, and God is ministering to him here.
According to Rashi, what God says in this passage is, in effect, “Your participation will be greater than theirs, for you will light and trim the lamps.”
This explanation is questioned by Rambam, arguing that Aaron ought to have been sufficiently consoled with his role in offering the incense morning and night, and indeed all the sacrifices, especially that on Yom Kippur which he alone could offer.” (Rabbi Elie Munk, “The Call of the Torah: Bamidbar”, Artscroll, pg.86)
It is both strange and wonderful that the sages would be bantering about the emotional state of the first High Priest in relation to the dedication of the Temple service, as it both challenges the intellect and ministers to the soul to consider this perspective.
In something so vastly important and transcendent as the Temple itself, could it be that God is so concerned with the emotion of His servants that He would alter the Torah to accommodate this consideration? Apparently, according to the sages, yes.
This should be a significant encouragement to us as ordinary believers.
‘Does God care how I feel? Does He even notice my service, my pain, my sacrifice?‘
The answer, according to the sages, is yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
But there is something equally powerful for us to notice here. We see the intersection of “as above, so below”, as the heavenly wisdom mingles with the wisdom and illumination of man in the light of the Menorah. How so? Rabbi Munk continues;
“Our Sages have compared the light of the Menorah to the light of knowledge, especially the knowledge of Torah. The Midrash compares the seven lamps of the Menorah to the seven branches of knowledge. It was generally accepted throughout the ancient world that all human knowledge fell into seven categories. This idea was expressed by King Solomon. “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out her seven pillars” (Prov.9:1) The fact that the seven lamps cast their light toward the face of the Menorah is seen as an allegory to the usefulness of general knowledge in coming closer to HaShem.
How often have you experienced the tug of God while you learned about or experienced situations or gained knowledge that reminded you of spiritual lessons and principles? The more we study and gain knowledge, the more we see God’s hand in all things. This is how it works. We cannot escape the connection. As we live our lives and gain knowledge and experience, we see God more clearly.
This mystery is depicted in the light of the Menorah, which the sages say is the “light of the world”. God shines into the darkness and foolishness of the world with His wisdom, truth and knowledge. We meet Him in the exploration of our world and in the acquiring of insight and application of wisdom, as we seek to understand our world and solve the problems we encounter. The Menorah represents the meeting place where the wisdom and knowledge of man reaches its zenith in the courts of God, Whose wisdom transcends our own.
This illustrates a common misperception within certain religious circles: that science and religion are inherently at odds. Nothing could be further from true. Science, in its purest form, assumes the presence of order and direction and consistency, all of which presume the presence of intelligent design. Secular scientists will protest this notion, but it is true nonetheless.
We cannot learn about the world in which we live, or even speculate about it, without first having a foundation of creation and the presence of a Divine Being. The very idea creates an anchor point for us in our inquisition of reality.
As we explore, the revelation comes to us. God has actually prepared us for it, and it for us.
Daniel Lancaster comments on this mystery in one of his excellent messianic commentaries on the Torah:
“Numbers 8:2…alludes to Yeshua who has ascended to the heavenly Tabernacle where He tends to the heavenly menorah, so to speak – the light of revelation that emanates into all worlds…“The seven stars are the angels of the seven assemblies” (Rev.1:20). Messiah is called “He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars” (Rev.3:1)….Likewise, the writer of the book of Hebrews says that God makes “His ministers a flame of fire” (Heb.1:7) and confirms the Master’s authority over the angels…” (Daniel Lancaster, “Shadows of the Messiah”, FFOZ, pg.624)
To connect this glorious vision of the messianic hope of the light of the Menorah with the self-conscious doubt of Aaron as represented by Rashi, we can consider the Haftarah portion for this week from Zechariah.
“And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there were two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” (Zech.3:2-3)
Picking up on Lancaster’s commentary once again, we see;
“Without Temple and without king, the community had no center of gravity. According to the earlier prophets, restoration of Temple and and king were supposed to be the two great hallmarks of the redemption. In their absence, the community wondered if God failed to keep His promises. Was this the redemption God had promised?” (Daniel Lancaster, “Voice of the Prophets”, FFOZ, pg.525)
We want to believe that we have something to share; that we matter. But the doubt creeps in to our minds as we witness others raised up and pressed into service. Sometimes, it really hurts, because we want nothing more than to have the opportunity to serve God in selfless fashion, and yet we stand by and watch dispassionate mercenaries profiteer on the very message that we would gladly pour out for free. We wonder, “Is there justice with God?” We cast down our eyes in shame and self-doubt as we are seemingly pushed aside for younger, flashier, and less mature versions of ourselves, and we wonder if God, and life, has passed us by. We may find ourselves losing confidence, or even faith, like the question posed by Lancaster: “Was this the redemption God had promised?”
But as we continue to study and learn, God reignites our hearts and passion and we have not a choice but to bubble over in joy and desire.
We feel at times like spiritual prostitutes, as we want to bring forth our pearls before anyone who will listen, even swine.
But we should not succumb to this. Our emotional pain, our doubt, or discouragement, is all normal, and God has accounted for it.
This portion of Torah, according to the sages, forms another parallel with Messiah and Moses, actually.
The Rabbi Akiva taught that Moses struggled to understand and learn the contours and nature of the Menorah. It was difficult for him. God had to take time to show Moses so he would understand. The Midrash Tanchuma (from Shemot 25) relates that this also shows the importance of humility not just in leading, but also in learning. This is part of the greatness of Moses, who the Torah tells us was the most humble man alive.
Likewise, the Master rebuked his own disciples when they attempted to keep children from coming to him.
“But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Lk.18:16)
This week, be encouraged. The feeling of being small, of lacking significance, of feeling ineffective and even stupid, is precious clay in the hands of the Potter. A vessel that is contrite before HaShem can learn great truths, and be a conduit of great light.
God not only hears your heart, He feels your pain.
And He has set aside precious space to take the time to validate you in a special way, if you just remain patient and continue to focus on your walk before Him.
You are the light of the world. Shine.