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WORKING 9 TO 5

by Micah Gimpel    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Speak to Aaron and say to him: 'When you kindle the lamps, towards the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps cast light'" (Numbers 8:2).

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Speak to Aaron and say to him: 'When you kindle the lamps, towards the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps cast light'" (Numbers 8:2).

Were this command to have been given alone, Aaron would have certainly encountered great difficulty in fulfilling Hashem's request, for he is not provided with enough information to even begin this mitzvah. When should he light the candles and what does the service entail? Assuming that candles are only needed at night, the menorah should presumably be lit before sunset. However to know the procedure with certainty, we must refer to an earlier passage in the Torah where this mitzvah is originally given in greater detail.

At the conclusion of Parshat Tetzaveh (Exodus 30:7-8), Hashem informs Aaron about the details and schedule of this mitzvah. Of prime importance is the command to arrange the candle wicks and prepare the menorah in the morning. However, while we could intuitively expect the menorah's preparation to precede nightfall so that it will be ready to illuminate the dark and empty Temple at night, why must Aaron prepare the menorah in the morning, so many hours before it will be kindled? He could easily set up the menorah in the afternoon closer to the actual time of lighting. Furthermore, why is this technical and pragmatic preparation infused with so much significance by giving it its own command from Hashem?

Presumably, the Torah is offering a symbolic gesture to teach us an important lesson, namely, that we must set and organize our priorities. Today, understandably, we often get lost in the fast-paced life and quest for the dollar. We are constantly exposed to realities that challenge our ideals and standards, and for some reason, the word "idealistic" becomes synonymous with "nonrealistic". The Torah here advises us to constantly alert ourselves to the dangers inherent in routine practical life.

We must fight the tendency to view the essentials of living as an end to themselves. The necessities of food and job are only tools and devices with which to achieve our goals. What we occupy ourselves with during the day is only there to enable us to take advantage of life at night. All too often, we spend our time exhausting ourselves at work or school only to come home and collapse. When we finally reach our daily goal of returning home to be with the family or to personally grow, we are drained of energy to do more than watch the news and retire for the night. Through the mitzvah of preparing the candles, the Torah teaches us to recognize the difference between working to live and living to work. Aaron must prepare the wicks as his work in the morning to teach us this lesson. The menorah is prepared during the day, even though it only serves its function at night when it is lit. Similarly, we prepare during the day in order to fulfill our task at night. We must work in order to live!

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Micah Gimpel, a native Atlantan and graduate of Yeshiva Atlanta, is a junior at Yeshiva University in New York.

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