Creating the Menorah, bringing His divine light


The beginning of our parasha, Beha’alotcha, discusses the kohane’s daily mitzvah to light the Menorah. The Torah then describes the construction of the Menorah: “This was the form of the Menorah: hammered work of gold, from its base to its flower it was hammered work; according to the form that Hashem had shown Moshe, so did he construct the Menorah.”

The identity of the “he” at the end of this pasuk is ambiguous. The Ramban opines that Moshe constructed the Menorah. As Moshe was not an artisan who could create something as intricate as the Menorah, the Ramban, basing himself on a passage in Midrash Sifrei, suggests that he learned how to construct the Menorah through extensive study.

In contrast, Rashi explains the phrase as referring to Betzalel, the chief craftsperson of the Mishkan. Rashi’s suggestion is straightforward; and in some ways the most logical explanation, as the Menorah’s construction should be viewed in the context of the overall building of the Mishkan. Since the Torah states that Betzalel was the chief architect of the Mishkan, he would have been the most likely candidate to have planned, designed, and built the Menorah.

In addition, both Rashi and the Ramban offer a fascinating third candidate as the creator of the Menorah.

In Sefer Shemot 25:31 we read: “And you shall make a Menorah of pure gold. The Menorah shall be made of hammered work; its base and its stem, its goblets, its knobs, and its flowers shall [all] be [one piece] with it.”

The Hebrew word employed for “shall be made” is tai’asah, instead of the expected ta’aseh. The first expression is passive and reflexive, whereas the second is active. Rashi formulates the significance of this grammatical change in this manner: “The Menorah shall be made: By itself. Since Moshe found difficulty with it [that is, understanding how to create the Menorah], the Holy One said to him, ‘Cast the talent [equivalent to sixty-four pounds of gold] into the fire, and it will be made by itself.’ Therefore, it is not written: ta’aseh but tai’asah.” (Based on Midrash Tanchuma, Beha’alotecha III)

The Ramban closely follows this interpretation and maintains our passage refers to Hashem: “[The Menorah] was created via the Holy One — by itself.”

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Although neither Rashi nor the Ramban develop this notion further, I would like to suggest that it is of singular import if Hashem, rather than man, was the artisan of the Menorah, since one of its major functions was to bring light to the Mishkan and allow the kohanim to operate with a newfound vision of hope and purpose. As such, I believe we can view the Menorah HaZahav as the ultimate counterbalance to the Egel HaZahav.

The Midrash Tanchuma’s assertion that Hashem was the creator of the Menorah enables us to see it as a powerful symbol of reconciliation between the Master of the Universe and the Jewish people. With the Menorah HaZahav, our relationship was, once again, shalame, for at long last, we were granted complete kapparah for the sin of the Egel HaZahav.

With Hashem’s help, may the Beit HaMikdash be rebuilt soon and, in our days, so that we may bask in the divine light of the Menorah forevermore. V’chane yihi ratzon.