Beit Midrash

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Based on Siach Shaul, p. 280

“Aharon Will Arrange them”

How does the mitzva of the oil and the lighting end up in the middle of the blueprints of the Mishkan, in between the description of the structure and its holy vessels and that of the glorious holy garments of the kohanim?

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Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Adar I 5 5782
The first p’sukim of our parasha command to take special olive oil and have Aharon and his sons arrange and light the candles in the Mishkan (Shemot 27:20-21). What can easily be missed is that Aharon’s involvement in this mitzva is raised in a matter-of-fact manner before the mention that Aharon will have a special role in the operation of the Mishkan, which comes up only in Perek 28. How does the mitzva of the oil and the lighting end up in the middle of the blueprints of the Mishkan, in between the description of the structure and its holy vessels and that of the glorious holy garments of the kohanim?

The concept that is the key to our understanding seems to already be planted by Rashi in last week’s parasha. The Torah writes: "Into the ark you shall place the testament that I will give to you" (Shemot 25:21). It actually appears another time, and Rashi inquires as to what this is supposed to teach us. His answer is confusing: First, one puts the luchot (testament) into the aron (ark) before the kaporet (covering) is on it, and only later do we put the kaporet on top. The obvious question is what the lesson of that is – could we think that we would be able to put the luchot in while the kaporet is covering the aron and obstructing access to it?

The lesson seems to be the following. It is possible for there to be a covering of a beautiful golden kaporet, with keruvim emanating from it, and everything will be clean and bright, and that will be enough for people. Who needs the luchot inside, after all, everything on the outside is bright and shiny?! That’s why the Torah had to repeat itself and say: "No, the aron must contain the luchot!" There is a value to the all-gold ark, but its value is only when there is a testament inside. There is value to glorious garments of the kohanim, including the eight pieces of the kohen gadol and the urim v’tumim. But there is a clear prerequisite. "Aharon must arrange the lights." If he knows that he will have a clear mitzva agenda to carry out, then there can be value in his special clothes. If he knows the showiness is not the main thing, then he can have the garments that display his greatness and closeness to Hashem. It is in that way like the kaporet for the aron, bringing it glory, which is appropriate only when the luchot are in it.
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