Divrei Torah

PARSHAS B'HA'A'LOSCHA 5779

The late Rebbetzin Esther Jungreiss – founder in the 1970’s of the Hineni organization to fight assimilation among American Jews - made note of an unusual term in the beginning of this week’s parsha. In Hebrew, when we talk about lighting candles, we use the term “L’hadlik” - which means to light. When lighting Shabbos candles we say “L’hadlik ner shel Shabbos”. When lighting Yom Tov candles, we say “L’hadlik ner shel Yom Tov”. When lighting the Chanuka menorah, we say “L’hadlik ner shel Chanuka”. However, in this week’s Parsha, the Torah does not write “B’hadlakascha es haneros” when you light the candles. Rather, the Torah uses an unusual term for lighting – “B’ha’a’loscha – literally – when you raise the candles”. Why does the Torah change from the regular term of “L’hadlik”?

Rebbetzin Jungreiss suggests a solution. The candles are a reference to the Torah – “Neir Mitzva V’ Torah Or” – the candle of Mitzva and the Torah of light. The interpretation of the verse is “when you are raised with the candles – Torah and Mitzvos raise a person to new heights. The Torah is different than every other field of study. Firstly, there is a Bracha that we say at the beginning of each day for the study of Torah that we will learn during the day. There is no bracha for the study of math. There is no bracha for the study of science. There is no bracha for the study of foreign languages. There is only a bracha for the study of Torah because Torah is not just any subject, The Torah is our life. Everything we do must be in the spirit of Torah. Whether it is business, school, our association with other people or even playing ball, the Torah teaches us how to conduct ourselves in all areas of life.

A second idea of which Rebbetzin Jungreiss made note is another way that Torah raises a person. A person who studies math does not become a number. A person who studies science does not become a formula. A person who studies law does not become a book of law. However, a person who studies Torah – to whatever degree of which he or she is capable - becomes a Torah. That person breathes Torah . . . that person lives Torah. That person’s life is defined by the Torah.

Perhaps another solution to the change of language from lighting to “B’ha’a’loscha” – raising up – is that when lighting the Menorah, the Kohein Gadol – the High Priest – or the regular Kohein if the Kohein Gadol passed on the service or was unable to perform it – was taking ordinary objects – the oil and wicks – and converting them to objects of holiness. He was raising their status. Before, it was just a wick . . . it was just oil. Now, it was the wick and oil of the menorah. The Jewish people brought ordinary wood from Egypt. Now, that wood was the wall of the Mishkan. An ordinary object became an object of Divine holiness. 

Life can certainly seem mundane if we adopt the Epicurean approach – eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. But G-d instructs us in Parshas Kedoshim, “Kedoshim Tihiyu – you shall be holy.” The job of a Jew in this world is to uplift the mundane and transform it into the holy. We are an eternal people, and we are tasked to live our lives with meaning and purpose. The Torah is the flame which sustains our souls and transforms the ordinary man into the extraordinary being.  ‘Be’haloshcha Es Hanairos – transform our lives by lighting the candle of life with spiritual purpose.