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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Terumah, Shemos 25:31. Miksha tei’aseh hamenorah. Lending Force to Energy

Rashi here brings the Tanchuma that says that Moshe had a very hard time understanding how to make the Menorah (as Rashi also says in passuk 40). So Hashem told him to throw the gold he had been working on into the fire, and a perfect menorah came out. The Maharal asks, why then did Hashem have to show him the tavnis hamenorah shel eish, as Rashi says in 40, and command him to make it? It was obviously impossible for Moshe to fulfill that commandment! The Maharal (Gur Aryeh) answers that Moshe did attempt to make it, and as part of the crafting process put it into the fire, and only then did it come out perfected. But Moshe did make it, at least the initial imperfect stages.

The mussar haskeil is that we cannot be expected to do everything that Hashem requires from us. We are expected to have bitachon in Hashem, and trust that if He presents us with what seems to be an insurmountable challenge, we do have the potential to overcome it, and we must plan and work to the limits of our ability. When we reach the limit of our ability, having given all our kochos, we will have Siyata Dishmaya to reach our goal.
This is the pshat in the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (2:16) that says “Lo alecha hamelacha ligmor, ve’ein atta ben chorin libateil heimenu.” And it is similar to the idea that Moshe set aside the arei miklot in the eiver hayarden even though he knew they would not be effectuated until after his death.

And now to the most important point. It is crucial to realize the similarity and the stark contrast between what happened here and what happened to Aharon at the maiseh ha’egel. (See Sfas Emes here.) There, too, Aharon threw the gold into the fire, and there, too, something came out. The point is, (and this also answers the Maharal’s kashe,) that preparation, kavana, having a goal in mind, transforms the maiseh, the act, completely. Moshe’s act, while physically identical with Aharon’s maiseh, was completely different in ruchnius. Moshe threw the gold into the fire after giving all his strength in the attempt to understand what the menorah was, and realizing that after giving all he had, he needed siyata dishmaya to achieve his goal. Aharon threw it in with no kavana at all, expecting that nothing would come of it. So when when Micha threw in the plate with the Shem Hashem on it (Shemos 32:4), the result was something Aharon never could have anticipated.

Gold is inert, neutral, and unchanging. But it conducts energy very well, and when combined with power and energy, the combination creates a potent, living force. Throwing gold into a fire creates a conduit for inchoate energy, and this can have more than one result— what comes out might be an avodah zarah that spreads death and darkness through the world, or it might be a menorah that channels the kedusha of the Shechina and brings life and light to the whole world.