In this parashah, Aaron is commanded to kindle the lights of the Menorah, but a most unusual expression is used in this connection. "Beha'aloscha" literally means "when you elevate," rather than "l'hadlik," the word used in connection to kindling the Shabbos and festival lights.[1]

There is a profound teaching therein. The Menorah is symbolic of the Torah and we must at all times bear in mind that studying the Torah is not just undertaking another study; observing the mitzvos is not just another lifestyle, but it is the very essence of our lives, the very fiber of our beings, through which we are elevated and realize our purpose in life. Therefore, the word that is used is "elevating" rather than "kindling."

There is yet another teaching found in the Menorah. The Book of Proverbs states, "The soul of man is a candle of God."[2] Buried deep in the crevices of our neshamos is the light of God - a love of Torah and mitzvos. We need only kindle it. So, if we seek elevation, meaning, and purpose in life, we need only kindle the light of Torah in our souls. It's as easy as that.

A JEWISH LITMUS TEST: WHEN DO YOU FEEL DEPRIVED?

The mitzvah of kindling the Menorah was given to Aaron after the princes of the tribes brought their contributions for the dedication of the Tabernacle. The Midrash[3] teaches us that Aaron was distressed that the leaders representing the tribes were called upon to offer gifts, while he and his tribe were not invited to do so.

This should give us all pause. In our world, very few people would feel deprived or distressed if they were exempt from making a contribution. They would be more than happy to be overlooked when it comes to solicitations. When honor is dispensed, however, when gifts are given, then, of course, it's a different matter. Let's ask ourselves: When do we feel deprived?

Aaron taught us proper priorities. To him, it was not what he possessed that counted, but what he was able to give away. Aaron felt deprived when he was not called upon to give. His message transcends the centuries and speaks to us, loud and clear. It's not what we have, but what we give that is significant. Aaron gave with a full, loving heart and because of that, the Almighty assured him that his gift - the kindling of the Menorah - would be eternal. Indeed, to this very day, even the most alienated Jew kindles a Chanukah menorah, although he may not know the significance of that act.

How do you rate on this litmus test? When do you feel deprived?

HOW WILL YOU BE REMEMBERED?

Aaron himself was commanded to kindle the light, telling us that the most effective way to impress upon our children the importance of Torah study and the observance of mitzvos is by being an example, a proper role model. It is not what we preach, but what we do that counts, for that is how our children will remember us. If they see our commitment, then they will follow suit and walk in our footsteps.

It was through his dedication and love of the mitzvah of the Menorah that Aaron merited that the miracle of Chanukah would come about through his descendants, Mattisyahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, and the entire Hasmonean family. From this we learn that the merit of performing a mitzvah with love and devotion has no bounds, and its impact has the power to transcend centuries. Let us ask ourselves: What example are we imparting to our children? How will future generations remember us? What is written on the legacy that we will leave behind?

MAINTAINING OUR ENTHUSIASM: A KEY TO MEANINGFUL LIVING

Following the instructions regarding the commandment of the Menorah, the passage goes on to say, "Va'yaas kein Aharon - And Aaron did so...."[4]

Rashi states that this verse is in praise of Aaron, who fulfilled the command exactly as instructed. This is difficult to understand, for even a lesser person than Aaron would not have deviated from God's command. How much more so, Aaron?

But once again the Torah teaches us an important lesson. It is easy to be enthusiastic when we undertake a new project; to keep that enthusiasm going, however, when the novelty wears off, is the real test of character. We all have visions and dreams when facing new challenges. We go under the chuppah certain that we will be the best husbands and wives. When we become parents, we are confident that we will be the best mothers and fathers; when we start a new business, we are ready to invest all our energies. But very soon, our dreams fade, our enthusiasm wanes, and we become habituated and perhaps blasé, taking our lives for granted. Aaron, however, was different. Throughout his 39 years of service, he retained the same enthusiasm as on the day that he first received the command. Indeed, "Aaron did so...."

Complacency is a terrible detriment to meaningful living. Not only does it sap our energy, but it makes us neglectful of our responsibilities. This holds true in all areas. When we take our relationships with our spouses or our children for granted, when we become complacent in our businesses, we underwrite our own undoing; be it the breakdown of our families or the erosion of our enterprises. This same truth applies to our relationship with God. When we become sloppy in our Torah study, in our prayers, in our observance, we go into a downward spiral that too often tragically leads to alienation from our faith and a lonely godless existence. But how are we to maintain that early enthusiasm?

Each and every time we commence our studies, we must strive to view ourselves as we stood at Mount Sinai, when we declared "Na'aseh v'nishma," which can be interpreted, "We will fulfill the Torah and study it." If we adopt this attitude, we will discover that absolutely nothing can dampen our spirit or limit our spiritual growth.

A SECOND CHANCE

The concept of feeling deprived because of an inability to give is reinforced in the parashah, when a group of men approach Moses and state that they feel diminished because they were unable to bring the pesach offering.[5] Herein we see the greatness of soul of our forefathers. They agonized over the fact that they were not able to participate in a mitzvah. They approached Moses and asked to be given a second chance and be allowed to bring the pesach offering. Moses told them that he would have to consult Hashem for guidance. Moses was unable to respond, for this declaration had to come from God Himself, so that we might know for all eternity that if we will it, God grants us a second chance and we can start anew.

The holiday of Pesach Sheni was not decreed as were all our other holidays because it is one holiday that God could not legislate until the people themselves desired it: A second chance must spring from the sincere yearning of those who wish for it. Thus, our parashah teaches us that, if we feel diminished because we didn't participate in the service of God, if we agonize over it and beseech the Almighty to grant us that second chance, He will give it to us.

LIFE-TRANSFORMING LESSONS FROM PESACH SHENI

We have a mandate to emulate God. Even as God is merciful, so too must we be merciful. Even as God is forgiving, so too must we be forgiving. It follows then that if God is willing to give us a second chance and even allows us to create a holiday to celebrate this concept, should we not give ourselves and our brethren that same opportunity? If we examine our relationships, we will surely come up with some people whom we have written off, but who should be given that second chance. And if we take a good look at our own personal lives, we are bound to discover situations in which we have given up on ourselves, in which we are convinced that we lost it and it's too late for us to change. But Torah reality teaches that a second chance is always possible, so why shortchange ourselves? Why deny God's miraculous healing gift of a second chance?

Pesach Sheni testifies that no matter how far we may have strayed, no matter what distant road we may have traversed, God will always accept us if we indicate our yearning to come home. This then, is our choice: We can reinvent ourselves, or we can remain mired in our failures. It's all up to us.

NOTES
1. Numbers 8:2.
2. Proverbs 20:27.
3. Rashi, Numbers 8:2.
4. Numbers 8:3.
5. Ibid. 9:6.

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