In Yeshivat Porat Yosef in Eretz Yisrael, the rosh yeshiva once had a very difficult question; he could not figure out an answer, and they ended the shiur without an answer.
The next day the rosh yeshiva opened his Gemara and there was a paper that had written on it a brilliant answer to the question. He was, of course, thrilled. In shiur he asked who gave the answer; no one said a word. This happened a few more times after that, and the mystery continued.
One afternoon the rosh yeshiva’s daughter was looking out a window in her house, which was right next door to yeshiva, she saw right into her father’s shiur room. She saw the janitor Shalom putting a paper into her father’s Gemara. She told her father who asked Shalom about this. He had tried to avoid the spotlight and hid himself from being recognized as a huge talmid chacham. Hashem had other plans and his wisdom and character were revealed. He could no longer work cleaning the yeshiva but became a magid shiur. He ended up marrying one of the rosh yeshiva’s daughters and eventually became the rosh yeshiva Rav Shalom Sharabi after his father-in-law was niftar.
In the beginning of this week’s parsha, Beha’alosecha, Rashi asks why our parsha starts discussing the menorah right after the parsha of the gift of the nesi’im? He answers that when Ahron saw the nesi’im give their gifts for the Mishkan he felt bad that his shevet did not have a part in the gifts to the Mishkan. Hashem said to Ahron: The mitzvah you will get is greater than theirs; you will light the menorah.
The parsha starts with Hashem commanding Moshe Rabbeinu to tell Ahron his mitzvah to light the menorah.
But why didn’t Hashem speak directly to Ahron, since this was his mitzvah?
Chazal teach about the light of the menorah. Does Hashem need the light? Of course not. To Hashem there is no difference between light and darkness. The third pasuk of the parsha states that after being commanded, “and Ahron did so,” Rashi says that the pasuk comes to tell Ahron’s praise – that he did not deviate from the command. This answer needs an explanation because why would we think Ahron would change from what he was commanded? The Shai La’morah, a peirush on Rashi, answers that even though Ahron did not need to go up the steps to light, because he was tall enough, nevertheless he still did not deviate and went up the steps to light. The Ramban explains that Ahron himself lit the menorah all the time, even though his sons could have.
A theme emerges: The light was not needed. The steps were not needed. Ahron himself was not needed to light. This appears to be why Ahron felt bad after the nesi’im’s gifts; he was not needed. How does this mitzvah, which we see clearly shows him not being needed, make him feel better?
It could be that since he was such a great tzaddik, Hashem wanted this avodah in Ahron’s lev. The menorah showed Ahron that, yes, Hashem wants his avodah but really it’s the humbleness, the nullification of oneself that Hashem wanted. And He showed Ahron by not commanding him directly. Ahron understood and was happy to do the mitzvah Hashem wanted, realizing at the same time it was unnecessary. But mission accomplished, because he did not feel bad this time. You find Ahron’s greatness in (accepting) his so called smallness (not being needed for the mitzvah).
We can all learn from Ahron: it’s not the spotlight that makes us great, but finding the greatness we have even out of the spotlight.