Parashat Beha'alotcha - Numbers 8:1-12:15

Kindling the Fire of Discipleship

As you have probably noticed, there is almost always something fascinating to discuss at the very beginning of the weekly Torah portions. This week is no exception. Parashat Beha'alotcha begins with the instructions on how Aaron, the kohen gadol (high priest), should kindle the menorah for the Tabernacle. It begins:

Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and say to him, When you set up [baha'alotcha] the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand." (Numbers 8:1-2)

The word baha'alotcha means, "to cause to go up." Therefore, Rashi, the medieval Torah commentator, describes this procedure by saying that Aaron was to hold the fire to the wick of the menorah "until the flame rises on its own accord." What does this mean? Isn't it obvious that this is the way you should light a candle? But let's think for a moment. I'm sure we've all done it. We have stuck a match and then held it to a candle until we think it's lit. But when we pull the match away to extinguish it, the wick immediately dims and is reduced to a smolder without any sign of a flame. We have not only wasted a match, but also our time. Now we have to find another match and begin the process all over again. Doing it properly, therefore, is to our advantage.

Chasidic Judaism uses Rashi's comment to compare the kindling of the menorah to discipleship. This concept is connected with Proverbs 20:27, which says that "the soul of man is the candle of God." In other words, the soul of man must be set aflame with the love of God and love of the commandments. Aaron is seen as the model for this. Jewish sources remember Aaron for his ability to endear his fellowman to the Torah. The great sage, Hillel, tells us that we are to imitate Aaron in this way, saying:

Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, 
loving your fellow creatures and bringing them close to the Torah. 
(m.Avot 1:12)

Not only was Aaron's job to kindle a flame in the menorah, but to kindle a flame in his fellowman as well. Often disciples of Yeshua think it is our job to evangelize others the same way we light candles. We introduce them to the fire within us until we see a spark, and then we move on to the next "candle," before the wick within them is able to produce a flame on its own accord. Therefore, we often end up having to "relight" the same people over and over. This is the difference between discipleship and evangelism. Evangelism considers a candle lit if it sparks. Discipleship holds the fire to the candle "until the flame rises on its own accord." If the soul of man is indeed the candle of God, then we need to make sure we hold our flame to it until it is able to be self-sustaining.

How do we do this? Through investing into people's lives. Going door to door or passing out tracts may produce a spark, but rarely does it produce a self-sustaining flame. We must take people under our wings and show them the joy and the beauty of living a godly life. We must also pour into them the love of God and instructions for righteous living. This takes self-sacrifice, intentionality and a genuine love for others. Only then will the soul of man ignite on its own accord and rise to praise its Creator. Only then will we have helped to create a holy light that does not smolder or grow dim, with the ability to kindle the soul of others as well.

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