Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Menora of Wisdom

By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

excerpts from Siach Shaul, p. 371-3

[This is part of a d’var Torah addressed to a bar mitzva boy.]

"When you raise up the lights, toward the face of the menora shall the seven lamps give light" (Bamidbar 8:2). There are seven lamps in the menora, and the commentators explain that this corresponds to the seven wisdoms in the world. A condition for the proper use of these wisdoms is that they all give their light toward the face of the menora, which is their sole purpose. The gemara (Shabbat 22b) tells us that this refers to "the western light, from which they would start and they would finish." [This light hints at the light of Torah, and it served as a testament, as the same amount of oil placed in that lamp would last all day, while the others did not – see Rashi ad loc. and Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:17.]

There is another condition in reference to the menora. "Its knobs and its flowers shall be from it" (Shemot 25:31). Our wisdom is unlike that of the Greeks, which Rabbi Yehuda Halevi described as having flowers but no fruit. Rather, the knobs and the flowers will all be fundamentally linked to each other. The development of aesthetics, of morality, and of science must all stem from one whole piece.

"From its base to its flower" (Bamidbar 8:4). The flower on the top must form one piece with the base. The previous generations serve as a base for us, who are only additional pieces added to the vessel that our predecessors created and built. They are the proper basis for our development, our behavior, and our world view. It is true that society has changed, but we must not look at ourselves as the generation that started things from scratch. Those who taught the generation of "sabras" in Israel to think that they began the new Jewish history are now bitterly disappointed by the sour fruit that their theories brought forth. "Look at the rock from which you were quarried and to the chasm from which you were chiseled. Look at your father Avraham and at Sarah, who bore you" (Yeshaya 51:1-2). We have deep roots in the past; we have an old trunk, which is well entrenched due to its roots, and we are nothing but a direct continuation of them.

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