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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Life Lessons

בהעלתך את הנרות אל מול פני המנורה יאירו שבעת הנרות

“When you kindle the flames, they should be facing the center the Menorah”

Rashi explains that the wicks of the six stems of the menorah should all be facing towards the center wick, the wick that is on the main body of the menorah.

Rashi also explains that the word בהעלתך comes from the word עלה, to rise. This implies another mitzva, that when kindling the lights, Aharon should make sure to support the flame until it rises and is able to stand on its own. Seemingly, these two mitzvos are distinct and unrelated. Each flame should be facing the middle flame, and each flame should be sustained until it burns brightly and is no longer at risk of flickering out.

Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l however, sees in this a wonderful message. The job of a Rebbe, or any good role model, is to coach the student until he or she is able to stand on their own. The goal should not be that the student will forever need to rely on the mentor, rather that the mentor should eventually no longer be needed. As the common expression goes, ‘the best teacher is the one who renders himself obsolete’. This is the lesson of the lights. They should be kindled and sustained until they are able to burn brightly on their own. Each flame should burn strongly without fear of being extinguished.

However, cultivating this confidence in the student brings with it a danger; how do we ensure that the student will make the right decisions and demonstrate proper judgement? How do we guarantee that the student will build upon the sound foundation of the past, constantly improving and not destroying?

In response to this question, the Torah gives us the second mitzva, to make sure that all the flames are facing the central flame. Although our goal should be to cultivate confidence and self-sufficiency, at the same time we should inculcate the student to always respect and look towards our leaders for guidance. Any question should be brought to our Gedolim for clarification and we should always be guided by them and their teachings.

The Gemara in Meseches Sukkah relates that the great Rebbe Eliezer never said anything that he did not hear from his own Rebbe, Rav Yochanan ben Zakai. However, we find the Talmud replete with novel teachings from Rav Eliezer! The meforshim explain that Rav Eliezer would be introducing novel, creative explanations all the time but he would always weigh his thoughts against what his Rebbe would say; would my Rebbe approve of this idea? Is this how my Rebbe would approach this particular issue? On the one hand, he was creative and innovative, on the other hand, he never said anything that he didn’t hear from his Rebbe. Everything he said was built solidly on the fundamentals that he heard from his Rebbe.

This is the goal we must strive for when influencing others as well as in our own life. To have healthy balanced self-confidence, able to make decisions and develop our potential; while always making sure it is within the parameters of the teachings of our Sages, something that they would say and do.

Have a wonderful Shabbos

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