מְלֵאֹת קְטֹרֶת – filled with incense.
The first passage in Parashas Behaalosecha discusses Aaron’s role in lighting the Menorah. Rashi on Num. 8:2 asks why the section regarding the lighting of the Menorah follows the detail regarding the dedication gifts of the nesi’im. He answers that Aaron felt badly that neither he nor any of the Kohanim played a role in the nesi’im offering. In response, God indicated that Aaron’s reward is even greater than the nesi’im, since he would set up and light the Menorah.
Why was Aaron disheartened if in the future, he would be offering thousands of sacrifices in the mishkan? In fact, on the last day of the milu’im ceremony, Aaron offered sacrifices along with the nesi’im. Why did he feel that his role was in any way inferior? What comfort would he derive from learning that he would light the Menorah?
There was one item that the nesi’im included in their offering that Aaron did not offer in his own sacrifice on the last day of miluim; indeed, it was something that none of his descendants would ever offer. Ketores (incense) cannot be offered by an individual (Hilchos Klei Hamikdash 2:11). Yet the nesi’im were allowed to bring such a unique offering, a ketores yachid.
Regarding the ketores, the Torah says (Ex. 30:7-8): Aaron shall make incense of spices go up in smoke upon it; every morning when he sets the lamps in order, he shall make it go up in smoke. And when Aaron kindles the lights in the afternoon, he shall make it go up in smoke, continual incense before the Lord for your generations. It would seem that mentioning the times of incense offering “in the morning and in the afternoon” would be sufficient: why add the apparent superfluous phrase, when he sets the lamps in order?
The Gemara in Pesachim derives from these verses that there are two fulfillments (kiyumim) in the mitzvah of menorah. One kiyum is simply related to the setting up (hatavah) and lighting (hadlakah) of the lights. This first kiyum has nothing to do with the ketores per se. However, the verse indicates that the mitzvos of setting up and lighting the Menorah are related to the burning of the ketores. The second kiyum is that whenever ketores was burned, the menorah had to be lit. The Gemara in Yoma 14b tells us that the incense was burnt after setting up (hatavah) the first five lights of the Menorah, indicating that the burning of the incense and the setup/ lighting of the Menorah were one kiyum, one fulfillment.
God allowed the nesi’im to offer ketores yachid, but without the hatavah and hadlakah of the Menorah, this unique offering was deficient. The privilege of setting up and lighting the Menorah was not an unrelated concession to Aaron, but integral to the ability of the nesi’im to offer their ketores yachid. Aaron was therefore mollified by being given the Menorah responsibility. (Moriah, 1975, Harrerei Kedem, Vol. 1, p. 308).