There is a well known midrash cited by the Ramban at the beginning of Parshas B’haaloscha. The midrash says that when Aharon saw how all of the leaders of the tribes of B’nei Yisrael brought their korbanos to inaugurate the mizbeiach in the Mishkan, he felt saddened that his tribe was not included.
Hashem told Aharon not to worry, because his portion would end up being greater than theirs. Aharon’s portion would be the kindling of the menorah. The sacrifices only existed as long as the Bais Hamikdash existed, but the lights of the menorah are forever.
The Ramban comments that, in truth, the kindling of the menorah in the Bais Hamikdash also only existed as long as the existence of the Bais Hamikdash, but the midrash is referring to different lights – the lights kindled by the Chashmonaim, who were Aharon’s descendants. These lights have continued to be lit to this very day.
The question arises, that all households of Klal Yisrael, from kohanim to leviim to yisraelim, are instructed to light a Chanukah menorah. If so, how can this be termed “the portion of Aharon and his descendants?” Isn’t it really shared by all members of Klal Yisrael?
Perhaps, we can answer this question if we understand, on a deeper level, what a kohein is, and what is transpiring when we light the menorah.
We know the mishnah in Avos considers Aharon to be one who loves peace and pursues peace. We also know that in Chumash Bamidbar, when Hashem granted Pinchas the status of being a kohein, he did it with a “covenant of peace.” This is not a coincidence.
The Ramchal in Daas Tevunos explains that the kohein has a unique status in the world. He is a “peacemaker.” The job of the kohein is to unite all the different elements of creation (domaim, tzomei’ach, chai, medaber) in the service of Hashem. By bringing together salt, wine, oil and grain, and animals all as one in his service of Hashem, the kohein, in essence, is unifying all the disparate strands of creation to achieve their ultimate purpose. When they are not viewed as individual entities, but instead as parts of a whole that brings glory to Hashem, then they have reached perfection. It is the kohein who brings about that shalom (unity) that makes them shalem (perfect).
We also know that there is a very powerful force for peace that Hashem put into the world, and this is the power of Torah. Chazal say that those who study Torah increase peace in the world. There is a special light in the Torah and, by spreading its light, we are spreading shalom.
When Hashem created the world, for the first thirty six hours, there was an extraordinary spiritual and physical light that was revealed. Afterwards, this light was “stored away” to be used for the righteous in the World to Come. Where was it stored? The commentaries explain that that light was stored in the Torah itself. By spreading the light of Torah, we are spreading this special spiritual light.
That light, the light of Torah, is also the light that the menorah radiated in the Bais Hamikdash, and that light is found in the lights of the Chanukah candles that are lit in every generation. The Bnei Yissaschar comments that it is interesting to note that we light exactly thirty six candles over the course of Chanukah (not including the shammash), equivalent to the thirty six hours that this special spiritual light illuminated the world at its beginning.
When the kohein kindled the menorah in the Bais Hamikdash, he was not simply lighting a candelabra to illuminate the darkness. Rather, he was the Man of Peace, the “peacemaker” of creation spreading the light of peace throughout creation.
This, then, is who we become on Chanukah, as well. We are not just simple Jews lighting a candelabra that brightens the night. Rather, we all have received a promotion. On Chanukah, we all become the spiritual children of Aharon, the peacemakers of the world. Through donning the mantle of being “Men of Peace”, we now have the ability to disseminate the light of peace, the light of Torah, throughout the world through the kindling of our menorahs.
We now have an explanation of the Ramban with which we started. The merit to light the menorah is always retained by the children of Aharon throughout the generations. On Chanukah, the ranks of the children of Aharon swell, as we all are granted the privilege to become his spiritual descendants, so that we may spread the light of peace, the light of Torah, throughout the world.
Kollel Aish Tamid would like to thank its partners who have helped us to merit that this light continues to grow stronger and stronger.
A freilichen Chanukah!