Thursday, February 22, 2018

l'ha'alos ner tamid

Even though the Torah says that oil should be taken "l'ha'alos ner tamid," the reality is that the menorah was not always burning.  According to most Rishonim the mitzvah was to light the menorah at the end of the day with enough oil for it to burn just through the night.  Rashi therefore interprets "tamid" to mean not constantly, but consistently -- it should be lit every single night.  (The korban tamid, for example, was offered consistently every day, not constantly all day.)  Ramban disagrees and writes that while the other candles of the menorah were not lit during the day, the ner ma'aravi was re-lit in the morning and always remained burning.

A few months ago by Chanukah we discussed the apparent stirah between the Rambam's view (as interpreted by the Rogatchover) that the Chashmonaim lit just the ner ma'aravi and the gemara's din that all the neiros are m'akev for the menorah to be complete.  There are two dinim at work: 1) a chiyuv to light the menorah, which can be accomplished by lighting even one ner; 2) a chiyuv for the chetftza of the menorah to be lit, which is accomplished only if all the candles are kindled.  

Perhaps this explanation sheds light (no pun intended) on Rashi/Ramban on our pasuk.  According to Rashi, our parsha is talking about the chiyuv for the cheftza shel menorah to be lit.  Therefore, "tamid" must mean consistently, not constantly, as one ner tamid does not a menorah make.  Ramban, however, understood the parsha as speaking of the chovas ha'gavra of lighting, which can be fulfilled even by kindling one candle, and therefore he interprets "tamid" to mean constantly.

R' Shimon Sofer uses the symbolism of menorah as representing Torah to derech derush offer another explanation of "tamid."   It's not just when learning or sitting in shul that one should feel inspired by Torah, but rather Torah's impact should be felt throughout the day.  We need to behave and think at all times, "tamid," like people en-light-ened by the menorah, by Torah.  How does that happen?  Only if the Torah we study is "shemen zayis zach," pure and unadulterated -- 100% A+ quality of the real thing.  

The Chasam Sofer quotes the Hafla'ah who is medayek is the words "shem zayis" - -singular -- "zach."  How much oil could one olive produce?!  Yet that little bit was enough to keep the menorah lit. We sometimes excuse ourselves from trying to sparking the interest of others in Torah by saying the effort required would be too great and too demanding.  The Torah here is telling us that sometimes just a small drop of effort, of Torah, of love, is all it takes.

1 comment:

  1. "enough oil for it to burn just through the night"

    Rashi limits the oft-quoted light of Yeshayahu 42:6, such that the navi be a light unto the tribes of Israel (rather than Israel a light unto the world)

    "always remained burning"

    while Ramban speaks of black fire (ner by night?) upon white fire (ner by day?), and of a continuous script of Names that constitute Torah