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Parshas Beha'aloscha

Friday, 1 June, 2018 - 9:26 am

A nursery school teacher was delivering a station wagon full of kids home one day when a fire truck zoomed past. Sitting in the front seat of the fire truck was a Dalmatian dog. The children began discussing the dog’s duties.

“They use him to keep crowds back,” said one youngster.

“No,” said another, “he’s just for good luck.”

A third child brought the argument to a close. “They use the dogs,” she said firmly, “to find the fire hydrants.”

This week’s Torah portion, Beha'aloscha, begins with G-d’s command to Aaron to light the menorah in the sanctuary. The Torah does not say “When you light the candles” but rather “When you raise the light.” The commentator Rashi explains this unusual choice of words to mean that the one lighting the lamp should hold the flame to the wick until a flame arises of its own accord.

Like our ancestor Aaron, we are also lamplighters. In our everyday lives, in many different spheres, we find ourselves in a position to affect, inspire and help those around us. When presented with such opportunities, it is not sufficient to help someone up just to have him fall down again, requiring further help. Like Aaron in this week’s portion, we are enjoined not just to light a lamp, but to give it enough strength and enough power to remain lit by itself.

Later in the portion, G-d tells Moses, “I will cause some of the spirit that you possess to emanate, and I will grant it to [the 70 elders].” (Num. 11:17)

One might wonder if Moses’ prophesy was diminished by G-d apportioning some of Moses’ divine inspiration to others. This is similar to when one lights a flame from another flame. The original flame does not lose anything. So too with us - when we seek to help and inspire others, without making calculations based on power (a zero-sum game), we actually increase the amount of light rather than depleting it.

The soul is compared to a light. In this area too, we must strive to kindle the lamp “so that a flame arises of its own accord.” In dealing with another person, the objective should be to establish the person as an individual in his own right, independent of us. We should encourage others to hone their talents and abilities so that their lamps independently glow and, in turn, kindle the potential in others.

In the days before electric street lights, many locales had gas lamps. The people whose job it was to go out each evening lighting the street lamps were known as “lamplighters.” Some of the lamps were in places that were difficult to approach; others had been neglected and were covered over. A conscientious lamplighter had to make sure to light every lamp in his area.

Similarly when helping out others, we need to find those who may be difficult to approach or hidden from view in order to assist them in any way possible. This is our collective task as this generation’s lamplighters!

Have a good Shabbos!

 

Rabbi Shraga Sherman 

Adapted from Likutei Sichot Vol. 2, lchaimweeekly.org

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