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S.A.L.T. - Monday

Rav David Silverberg

          In the opening verses of Parashat Beha’alotekha, we read God’s instructions concerning the kindling of the menorah, which is to be performed by a kohen each morning in the Beit Ha-mikdash.  The Torah tells, “Va-ya’as kein Aharon” – that Aharon complied with God’s commands regarding the kindling of the menorah (8:3).  Rashi, citing the Sifrei, famously comments that this verse expresses praise for Aharon “she-lo shina” – for not deviating from the instructions given to him for the performance of this mitzva.  Many different explanations have been offered for why Aharon would deserve special praise for his compliance with these laws.

          Rav Yosef Sorotzkin, in Meged Yosef, offers an explanation based on the symbolism of the menorah, which is commonly viewed as representing the “light” of Torah which guides us.  Particularly, the menorah is associated with the Torah she-be-al peh, the oral law, which is subject to the interpretation and analysis of the scholars, as opposed to the rigid, unchanging written text of the Torah.  The aron (ark), which contained the original Torah scroll, remained concealed behind a curtain in the Beit Ha-mikdash, symbolizing that the written text of the Torah is “off-limits,” dictated by God without any input from scholars.  The menorah, by contrast, was handled and kindled by the kohanim, representing the process of Torah she-be-al peh, the code of law developed by the scholars based on the principles of halakhic analysis and decision-making.  (Rav Sorotzkin further notes that whereas Moshe, who brought us the written text of the Torah, is associated with the rigid written Torah, Aharon is commonly associated with the oral tradition.)  Accordingly, Rav Sorotzkin suggests, when the Sifrei expresses praise for Aharon “she-lo shina,” for not deviating, it speaks of the care and concern that is required in the process of developing the Torah she-be-al peh.  While scholars must analyze the material and arrive at conclusions based on their own understanding and insight, utilizing their creativity and critical thinking skills, they must ensure not to “deviate” from the intent of the Torah.  The creative process of “kindling” the “menorah,” at arriving at new insights and understandings of the Torah, must be undertaken within the limits of the principles of Torah she-be-al peh that have been transmitted through the ages.  The Sifrei’s comment, then, speaks of the delicate balance that must be maintained between scholarly creativity and fealty to tradition, instructing that the “light” of Torah scholarship must be “kindled” within the boundaries of accepted Torah principles, without ever deviating from them.



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