(Courtesy: Dr. Meir Tamari)
“The princes, on behalf of Israel, brought of their gold, silver, fine flour, oil and incense, and the best of their flocks and herds in Chanukat HaMizbei’ach, thus devoting their possessions to G-d and His Sanctuary. However, the tribe of Levi and its prince, Aharon, seem to be missing from the consecration of the Mizbeiach. They really had no material wealth to offer, since they were not destined to have a portion of the Land.
Instead, G-d commanded them to tend the lights of the Menorah in such a way as to unite all the mental and spiritual activities of the nation in striving towards G-d. That which was expressed by the princes during the days of the consecration the kohanim had to do daily; a mission that Aharon as their prince had to express by tending the lights on each side towards the centre light in the Menorah” (S. R. Hirsch).
“G-d has no need for the lights of flesh and blood, for how is it possible for us to brighten He whose light fills the whole world. Human beings can only light something from another light or fire, whereas He makes light from darkness, as it is written: ‘…and darkness upon the surface of the deep, and G-d said ‘let there be light and there was light (B’reishit 1:3-4). He only commanded the lighting of the Menorah to elevate us; ‘say to Aharon, BEHA’ALOT’CHA, when you raise the lights. The kohein had to stand on an elevated platform to kindle the lights of the Menorah” (Tanchuma 5). Shlomo HaMelech made the windows narrow from the inside but wide to the outside so that the lights of the Beit HaMikdash would shine outwards and pour out sanctity for the world.
“Why is the tending of the Menorah mentioned here when it has already been written in Sh’mot 25:37 and in Vayikra 24:2? When Aharon saw that all the princes had brought offerings and these had been accepted, he was greatly troubled, as he and his tribe were not included. Perhaps this was a punishment for his part in the Eigel HaZahav? G-d comforted him, saying, “Your offering will be greater than theirs, for you shall tend and light the lights of the Menorah which will shine for ever, while the offerings will cease with the destruction of the Temple” (Tanchuma, Bamidbar 5). “How were the lights of the Menorah a comfort to Aharon, more than the Avodah on Yom Kippur that was permitted only to the Kohein Gadol, whereas the setting of the Menorah lights was done by any ordinary kohein? After all, the Menorah was part of the Temple service and so would cease together with the rest of the service when the Temple was destroyed. This promise to Aharon, however, was a reference to the candles of the Menorah of Chanuka that exist forever, even after the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash” (Ramban). “It was the overflowing spirituality and ecstasy of Matityahu and his sons, kohanim, descendants of Aharon that empowered them to defeat the Greeks, purify and re-consecrate the Temple and restore sovereignty to Israel” (Shem MiShmuel). The gifts of the princes is the Torah reading for Chanuka and our kindling of the lights then is an expression of our thanks for G-d’s salvation, as was Aharon’s lighting at the consecration of the Mizbei’ach, that concludes that Torah reading.
“Why did the tribe of Levi merit that their lighting of the Menorah should continue even after the destruction of the Temple? Sanctity came down from Heaven to enable humans to worship G-d, so all the avoda of the kohanim in the Beit HaMikdash was only within the Temple walls and hidden from the outside world. When the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, that avoda had to cease. However, in the lights of the Menorah, sanctity flows from below to Heaven just as the wicks draw up the oil and the light burns upwards; so the lighting of the Menorah continues even after the Temlpe was destroyed” (Avnei Nezer of Sochochow).
“And Aharon raised the lights in the Menorah exactly as G-d commanded Moshe; to teach us the merit of Aharon that he was careful not to change anything, neither adding nor subtracting anything from the service commanded by G-d” (Sifri Zuta 9). “Even though Aharon lit the lights for 39 years, he continued doing so with the same devotion and intensity as on that first day. His service never became mechanical or rote or mere ritual” (Vilna Gaon).
“Levi Yitschak of Berdichev asked what kind of merit is ascribed here to Aharon. That he did what G-d commanded? Any simple Jew in Berdichev would have been able to do the same had G-d commanded him. But no, answered the Berdichever. If I would have had to light the Menorah in the Mishkan, something that had never been done before by anyone and something that was going to be eternal, I would have been filled with ecstasy and joy. In that state, I, and any other Jew from Berdichev, would have spilt the oil or extinguished the lights or stumbled or knocked over the Menorah. The merit of Aharon lies in the fact that filled with ectasy and joy he was still able to do everything exactly as G-d commanded.
The Avnei Nezer told that once he saw Menachem Mendel of Kotsk davening in private on Yom Kippur and he was like a pillar of fire. There was neither sound nor motion nor any outward sign. That is ecstasy of the mind, the most sublime and most elevated of all ecstasy “(Shem Mi- Shmuel).
“This is the offering of the prince of the sons of Levi, Aharon the son of Amram.”