Each detail in the Torah is laden with meaning. Surely the service vessels of the Temple had great importance and consequence over and above their routine service. In the description of the menorah that stood in chamber outside the Holy of Holies, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, found layer upon layer of meaning.
“Toward the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps give their light” (8:2). The number seven is always the symbol of the creation of the universe from nothing, by the Word of Hashem. “Toward the face of the menorah” is explained by some as the side facing the Holy of Holies; others say it means the wicks of the six branches were turned toward the central post with its lamp. The symbolism of the menorah includes:
1. The gift of life (“The light of G-d is the life of Man” – Mishle 20:27) is a wondrous lamp only Hashem can kindle. The menorah demonstrates that all aspects of life and its resources (as symbolized by the branches of the menorah and their lamps) should be turned with their flames facing the central post (or as others explain, toward the Holy of Holies), which would mean the central principle of complete devotion to the Creator. To emphasize the importance of this principle, Hashem specifically commanded this procedure in this verse, and the following verse again emphasizes this principle: “And Aharon did so: toward the face of the menorah he brought up its lamps.”
2. The creation of light. “And Hashem saw that the light is good” (Bereishis 1:4). This “good” is so sublimely great that we daily devote part of the morning prayers to proclaim its importance and to thank Hashem for it, and we declare that the angels are forever occupied with the function of praising the gift of light. Light is sight, in addition to warmth and food production.
3. The gift of reason. All the achievements for which we have been created are made possible by means of faculties of thought, understanding, remembering, induction and other aspects, including sanity (proper functioning of all aspects of reason). For these gifts, the menorah is kindled. (The prayer for these faculties and the expression of thanks to the Creator for them are given the first place in the weekday berachos of Shemoneh Esrei.)
4. The privilege of having the Presence of Hashem among us forever. “It is a testimony to all that are in the world that the Shechinah rests upon Israel” (Shabbos 22B), as is written: “And we shall be distinguished, I and Your people, from all the people upon the face of the earth” (Shemos 33:16), which alludes to the words just before: “By Your going with us” (ibid.).
5. The request for Hashem’s favor toward us: “Hashem should cause His face to shine upon you” (6:25 above). “And the light of Your face, that You favored them” (Tehillim 44:4). Our greatest desire is to find favor in His eyes, and the menorah bespeaks our prayers and our gratitude for His favor.
6. The gift of Torah: “For mitzvah is a lamp, and Torah is Light” (Mishle 6:23). Our greatest gratitude is for this gift Hashem bestowed solely upon us: “And now, if you shall listen to My voice (i.e. if you shall accept My Torah) and you shall keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a unique treasure from among all the peoples. And you shall be for Me a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation” (Shemos 19:5-6). The chief part of this Covenant is the Oral Law: “The Holy One blessed is He made a Covenant with Israel solely because of the Oral Law” (Gittin 60B). Other nations profess to practice some laws from the Holy Scriptures, but they did not invade the sanctuary of the Oral Law, which was unknown to them. (Journey Into Greatness)
Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com. For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.