The Trouble With Fractions

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Beha'alosecha
The Trouble With Fractions

One of the topics contained in this week's parsha is the lighting of the seven branched Menorah. Why did God command that specifically a seven branched Menorah be lit, not six branches or eight, but seven? Moreover, special importance is given to the central shaft, as all the other wicks face towards it. Additionally, it is the wick of the central shaft that faces the Holy of Holies. Why is the central shaft considered to have a higher status than the other branches?

Another topic found in this parsha is the words that we say every time the Torah scroll is taken out and returned to the Holy Ark. I am referring to the two verses "Vayehi Binsoah" and "Uvenucho Yomar" which talk about how the Holy Ark traveled in the wilderness. These two verses are separated from the verses before them and after them by inverted nuns.

The Tanna Kamma says that these two nuns indicate that these two verses do not belong in parshas Behaalosechah, but rather in parshas Bamidbar where all the traveling in the wilderness is discussed. However, Rebbi says that the nuns teach us that these two verses make up one of the Books of Moshe. This would split the Book of Numbers into three parts; the first third is up until the first nun, the second third is found between the two nuns, and the final third is from the second nun until the end of the book. Since there are four other books to the Torah, we must conclude that there are seven books of Moshe in total.

We have to wonder how just two verses can make up an entire book. It would also be nice to see how the words of the Tanna Kamma and Rebbi complement each other, since there is a teaching that the opinions of opposing Tannaic Sages are both the words of the living God.

Additionally, we find that Aharon felt bad when he was left out of the inaugural offerings that were brought by the other tribal leaders in last week's parsha. Hashem promised Aharon that his portion of lighting the Menorah was an even greater honor than the offerings of the other tribal leaders. This is how our parsha (discussing the Menorah) picks up where we left off in last week's parsha (which discussed the tribal leaders' offerings).

The Midrash explains how lighting the Menorah is a greater honor than bringing offerings. The offerings are dependent on a Temple. Without a Temple, there are no offerings. Whereas the Menorah's light exists even after the Temple's destruction.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that although we do not actually light the Menorah after the Temple's destruction, nevertheless, the Menorah still burns brightly. This can be seen by the Talmudic suggestion to pray towards the south if we want to become wiser. Wisdom comes from the south because the Menorah, which represents Torah wisdom, was placed on the southern side of the Temple. Even though the Menorah no longer stands there, its energy is still present. This is how Aharon's portion outweighs that of the other tribal leaders. Aharon's Menorah outlasted the other leader's offerings.

Now, when Aharon lit the Menorah, we are told that he did it like Hashem had commanded Moshe for it to be done. Rashi comments that this is meant to praise Aharon for not changing or deviating from what he was told to do.

This seems a bit strange. Any one of us would carry out God's will if we were told to do so by Moshe. Certainly Aharon would. If so, why is there special praise credited to Aharon?

The Turei Zahav shares a novel approach with us. He says that we all have thoughts. However, other people do not quite know what we are thinking. Therefore, we have a tool called speech which serves as a vehicle to carry our thoughts from our heads and plant them into somebody else's brain. However, speech does not have the capacity of conveying everything that is in the speaker's mind. Speech can only convey 1/8 of the speaker's thoughts. Since the listener can only understand 1/8 of what he is being told to do, he can only do 1/8 of the speaker's intention.

This is true with respect to an average listener. But, a wise man can understand what lies between the lines and beneath the words, getting a full picture of the speaker's intention. This enables the listener to carry out the speaker's will completely.

When Hashem relayed to Moshe that He wanted Aharon to light the Menorah, God revealed all of its deep meanings and secrets. Moshe received the entire picture from Hashem. But, when Moshe communicated this mitzvah to Aharon, we would have expected Aharon to understand only 1/8 of what God told Moshe, thereby enabling Aharon to carry out only 1/8 of God's will. We would have assumed that Aharon would have been able to invest only 1/8 of the deeper meanings and secrets into the kindling of the Menorah.

However, Aharon was a very wise man. As such, he was able to read into Moshe's words, infer and extrapolate the full picture of God's will. When Aharon lit the Menorah, it was exactly as God commanded Moshe. This was Aharon's praise. He did not deviate an iota from God's will.

When Hashem commands us in any mitzvah, we only hear 1/8 of His will. It is God's desire that we work on finding the other 7/8 of His will so that we can serve Him completely. How can we accomplish this?

The Chassam Sofer says that while the Holy Ark represented the Written Law, the Menorah represented the Oral Tradition. The Written Law contains only 1/8 of God's will because it is the "word" of God, and words only carry an 1/8 of the speaker's thoughts. This is why God commanded us to light a Menorah that has specifically seven branches. The other seven parts of God's intention reach us by flowing through the seven branches. Since the Menorah represents the Oral Tradition, we see that we can access the other seven parts of God's intention by plugging into the Oral Law.

The sages already revealed six parts of God's will through the six orders of Mishnah which flowed to us through the six branches of the Menorah. However, the central shaft of the Menorah represents the final part of God's will. That final part contains the primary aspect of the Oral Tradition. It will be revealed to us by Moshiach.

This is why the central shaft of the Menorah is given special emphasis. It is because it represents the final and primary part of God's will that'll complete the picture.

The small book of Torah containing just two verses corresponds to the central shaft of the Menorah. That book represents the final part of Oral Tradition that will be revealed. God gave us just two verses as a hint that there is more to come.

When Rebbi said that the two nuns teach us that those two verses make up a book unto itself which correlates to the central shaft of the Menorah, the Tannah Kammah added that in that case, the two verses are not written in the place that they are supposed to be. Right now, the two verses are the fifth book of the Torah. That means that four books come before it and two books come after it. That is hardly in the center.

This is because our world is broken and not in order. Therefore, the books of the Torah are not in order either. But, in the future, the books will be reversed so that the two versed book will be number four which is at the center of the seven books.

Since we have been discussing Torah's wisdom, there are some practical pieces of advice that we could share in order to receive even more of that Light. Firstly, when praying, try to sway right and left at least once so that we connect with the southern direction in order to draw upon the energy of the Menorah. It would be preferable to do so while asking Hashem to grant us wisdom.

Secondly, let us try to increase our study of Oral Tradition. As we draw from the six branches of the Menorah, we begin to tug at the seventh. Eventually we will merit to see the full picture and serve God in totality.

So, may we all be blessed with the strength to immerse our seven senses in Torah study as much as we can in order that we tug at the eighth dimension of Torah's light, and be taught the totality of the Torah's middle sefer, and then return to the Beis Hamikdash, light the Menorah in a way that will not deviate the slightest bit from Hashem's will, and then sing songs to God with an eight stringed harp celebrating the destruction of the wicked nations who will be removed like a foreskin in the merit Bris Milah which is performed on the eight day.