All of a Piece

“Priest Prepares the Menorah”                     Zely Smekhov. Thanks to the Temple Institute for use of the painting.

Elimelech of Lizhensk on Parshat Behaalotecha, from Noam Elimelech.

God spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and say to him: ‘When you light the lamps [of the Menorah, the wicks should be angled so that] the seven lamps cast their light towards the center [light] of the Menorah”‘…This is the construction method of the Menorah: a hammered work of gold [from a single piece of metal]…             Numbers 8:1-4, according to Rashi

The great commentators have asked why the reference to the construction of the menorah is included here, for it seems redundant [since the details of its construction have already been given] and out of place. It seems to me we must look to the saying of the sages, “David came and stood the mitzvot on eleven…And Isaiah stood them on seven… And Habakkuk came and stood them on one: ‘And the righteous shall live by his faith'” (1). When a person enters the service of God, at first he must make for himself many fences and disciplines and habits so that he learns proper habits in his service. Later, when he has achieved higher levels, even though at each new level he is once again beginning, he no longer needs these, for as he rises, he achieves greater and greater unity in his actions and habits. That is the case here, when “David came and stood the mitzvot on eleven,” for eleven hints at the unification of the worlds (2), as the kabbalists know, and this unification is the purpose of Torah and good deeds, as we know. “And Isaiah stood them on seven,” that is, when a person rises in service he brings everything to the seven luminaries of the universe (3). “And Habakkuk stood them on one,” that is, the purpose of service is to bring everything to complete unity (4).

And this is what God commanded the righteous one, When you raise the lights, that is, when you wish to raise Torah and mitzvot, which are called lights, to the seven luminaries of the universe, the key is that you bring them to complete unity, so that they face the menorah, which is the root of everything and the heavenly source.


1) Masechet Makkot 23b; the reference is to various places in the Tanakh where God’s requirements on us seem to be epitomized by, even reduced to, a small number of values, starting at thirteen and ending at one.    2) See Psalm 15 for the source. Ten is considered a number of completion, and so eleven is the new beginning, the new oneness, after that completion.   3) The seven lower sefirot, or aspects of divinity that are closest to our material world. This is a bit of a mystery to me, since the Talmud actually says that Isaiah reduced them to six (see Isaiah 33:15-16), and then two (see Isaiah 56:1), not seven. My only idea is that, since both mention acting with righteousness, that counts as one, and so the remaining one from chapter 56 makes seven in total.   4) See Habakkuk 2:4

This entry was posted in Behaalotecha, Concepts, Divine Service, Elimelech of Lizhensk/ Noam Elimelech, Hasidic Masters, Parsha and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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