It's All About "Luces"

Friday, 24 February, 2023 - 2:00 pm

One my favorite aspects of being a Rabbi is the opportunity to study with people. One weekly study session is an essay of the Rebbe on the Torah portion.

This week we learned an essay on the fashioning of the Menorah. There is a disagreement among the commentators whether the command for the Menorah to be chiseled out of one solid piece of gold also includes the lamps at the top of the Menorah. Maimonides rules that the lamps are included in this instruction. Rashi does not mention the lamps when addressing this command. From this we infer that Rashi disagrees with Maimonides, and allows for the lamps to be made separately, and then mounted on the Menorah when they are ready for kindling.

The Rebbe makes the observation that it must be something so obvious to Rashi that he doesn’t even see the need to comment. He explains that the Torah gives all the detailed instructions on the fashioning of the Menorah, including the command to chisel it from one piece of gold. Only then does the Torah tell us about how the lamps and other accessories should be made. This is sufficiently obvious enough for Rashi to infer that lamps are included in the accessories, and are therefore regarded as separate from the Menorah.

In a later Parsha, Moses repeats all the instructions regarding the Sanctuary to the Jewish people. He includes the instruction about the Menorah by saying, “the menorah for lighting, and its implements, and its lamps, and the oil for lighting.” Rashi comments on the word “Lamps” and gives a nearly identical interpretation of lamps (cups for oil and wicks) except that he adds the Old French term for lamps, “Luces.” Why would he add the Old French term to the comment in the repeat version, if it wasn’t needed in his original comment?

The Rebbe explains that since a big deal was made about the Menorah, the lamps might be perceived as a mere accessory. Rashi wishes us to recognize the ultimate purpose of the Menorah. For this reason, he adds the Old French term, “Luces.” Luce means light. This enables us to recall that while the structure of the Menorah is fascinating, it is all about illumination.

Most of the Rebbe’s essays end with a practical lesson. This one does not. My study partner asked me, “So what is the lesson?” I replied by paraphrasing the Rebbe, “it must be something so obvious that it need not be explicitly stated.” What indeed might the lesson be?

A Menorah without lamps is pointless. We must remember that purpose of all that we do is “Luces,” to bring Divine illumination to the world. We can get caught up in the structure and the details of what are doing and forget that is all about “Luces.”

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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