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Parashat Beaalotecha

Parashat Beaalotecha

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Published by: Harav Michael Elkohen on Jun 07, 2012
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1
 
 Parashah Insights
by
 Rabbi Yaakov Hillel 
 Rosh Yeshivat Ahavat Shalom Parashat Beha’alotcha
 Perfect Torah
The Menorah is Torah
“And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, speak to Aharon and say to him, when youlight the lamps, the seven lamps will shine toward the center of the
 Menorah
(
 Bamidbar 
8:1-2).In the Sanctuary, and later in the
 Bet HaMikdash
, the
 Menorah
 was placedbetween north and south, with all wicks on both sides tilted toward the centralbranch. The wick of the central lamp was tilted toward the Holy of Holies in the west(Rambam,
 Hilchot Bet HaBehirah
3:8,12).Our Sages teach that the
 Menorah
represents Torah. “Rabbi Yitzhak said, [whenfacing the
 Bet HaMikdash
to pray,] one who wishes to become wise should tilthimself slightly toward the south. [So too, one who wishes] to become wealthy should tilt himself slightly toward the north. This is symbolized by the
 Menorah
,[which represents the wisdom of Torah,] which stood to the south of the Table, andthe Table, [which represents wealth and success,] which stood to the north of the
 Menorah
” (
 Baba Batra
25b).The central lamp was called “the Western Lamp,” because it was the only one of the seven flames that faced west (
 Shabbat
22b; see Rashi). Another reason is that
maarav
, literally “west,” can also be translated as “mixing.” The lights of all the othersix lamps were combined or “mixed” together in the central lamp. Let us try tounderstand in what sense the Torah is comparable to the six lamps which were litbefore Hashem, with all six directed toward the seventh central lamp.The six branches of the
 Menorah
allude to the Six Orders of the
 Mishnah
, thebody of 
halachah
which we received from Sinai. This is the revealed portion of the
 
 
2
Torah. The Western Lamp symbolizes the Torah’s hidden inner meaning. Thesesecrets of the Torah, known as the wisdom of 
 Kabbalah
, are the ultimate truths of Torah.“The seven lamps will shine toward the center of the
 Menorah
.” When therevealed Torah of the Six Orders of the
 Mishnah
, symbolic of the six branches, isdirected toward the central branch, symbolic of the hidden secrets of the Torah, they are a brilliant, perfect, all-encompassing light. The
halachot
of the revealed Torah will shine together with the light of 
 Kabbalah
, and the
 Kabbalah
 will be illuminatedby the light and the insight of the revealed Torah (see Rabbi Hayyim Vital’sIntroduction to
 Etz Hayyim
).
Seven is Perfection
The
 Menorah
in the Sanctuary, and later in the
 Bet Hamikdash
, had a total of seven branches. On an esoteric level, the number seven symbolizes spiritualperfection. The number six symbolizes physical reality which is openly revealed to us.This is because everything in the physical world has six dimensions: east, west,north, south, up, and down. The number seven, on the other hand, alludes to thehidden inner power which is the essence of every entity. The seventh entity encompasses all six dimensions and unifies them into one complete system. This is why the
 Menorah
had six branches, three on either side, with the flames facing the Western Lamp in the center, forming one complete whole.The seven lamps correspond to the seven days of the week. The six weekdaysshould all be directed towards the sanctity of Shabbat, the center which unites theminto a perfect whole. The Arizal compares the six branches of the
 Menorah
builtaround one central branch to the six days of the week, which revolve aroundShabbat. Our Sages teach that the three days before Shabbat (Wednesday,Thursday, and Friday) are the prelude to Shabbat, and the three days followingShabbat (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday) are subsequent to Shabbat. Shabbat is inthe center, with the other days grouped around it. The
 Menorah
too has threebranches on either side of a central branch. The single central branch is the realsource of the
 Menorah
’s light. The other six lamps incline towards it to draw fromthe power of its inner light, just as Shabbat is the source of blessing for the dayspreceding and following it (see
 Shaar HaKavanot
, beginning of p. 67a).The same is true of other entities based on the number seven. For example, a
 Shemitah
cycle consists of six years, followed by the sanctified seventh year. Seven
 Shemittah
cycles conclude with
Yovel
, the Jubilee Year, which has its own specialsanctity. This also explains why our ancestors needed seven full weeks of preparationprior to receiving the Torah. Perfect service of G-d can only be the result of profound, all-inclusive preparation, symbolized by the number seven, the source of all perfection.
 
 
3
Six Followed by Seven
 With this in mind, we can understand the profound meaning of our Sages’ words,“The physical world will exist for six thousand years, and the seventh thousand year will be a period of destruction [of the physical world, which will then transcend tospirituality]” (
 Rosh HaShannah
31a). The natural, physical world will exist for six thousand years. The seventh thousand refers to the world of spirituality which willshed its material nature. It is called
haruv
, destroyed, because physicality will benegated in this world.The six days of the week, and the six thousand years of the world’s existence, areall directed toward
 
spirituality,
 
symbolized by seven, which is the source of perfectionand rectification.The Vilna Gaon explains the
 Zohar 
’s words, “The Redemption will come aboutthrough the study of 
 Kabbalah
.” The last years of the existence of the physical worldare an appropriate time to prepare for the World to Come, which corresponds to theinnermost secrets of the Torah. This is why our main focus in learning in this erashould be
 Kabbalah
. (Obviously, this refers only to Torah scholars of the highestcaliber in both wisdom and integrity.) We find a similar idea in the Arizal’s teachingthat on weekdays, we should concentrate mainly on the study of the revealed Torah,and on Shabbat we should concentrate mainly on the study of the hidden wisdom of Torah (
 Shaar HaPessukim
,
Tehillim
100).
 Bringing Together the Revealed and Hidden Torah
 With this in mind, we can understand the wording of the verse: “When you lightthe lamps, the seven lamps will shine toward the center of the
 Menorah
.”One who learns the Six Orders of the
 Mishnah
– the entire body of the revealedTorah – should direct his learning “toward the center of the
 Menorah
,” with theintent to reach the Torah’s hidden inner truths. In this way, he will combine therevealed and hidden aspects of Torah into one whole, achieving a complete, perfectunderstanding of Torah. Rabbi Hayyim Vital relates that his teacher, the Arizal, wouldexplain every Talmudic topic he learned in six original ways never before expoundedby earlier scholars, in keeping with the revealed Torah. Then he would present aseventh original explanation based on Kabbalistic teachings (
 Shaar 
 
 HaMitzvot
,
 Parashat V’et’hanan
, beginning of p. 33b). As we see, the Arizal would always firstexplain the topic according to the revealed Torah, and only afterwards, according tothe hidden Torah. This is because the secrets of 
 Kabbalah
are only uncoveredthrough knowledge of the revealed Torah. Six explanations in the revealed Torah,concluding with a seventh in the hidden secrets of Torah, produced complete,perfect understanding of the topic.

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