Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik
by R. Aharon Ziegler
In Sefer Shemot, beginning of Parashat Be’ha’alotecha (8:1) HaShem commands Aharon [HaKohen] to light the Menorah. This Mitzvah follows right after the dedication ceremony of the Altar in the previous parasha and Rashi tells us that this Mitzvah was meant to console Aharon for not having participated in the dedication ceremony. HaShem tells him that his Mitzvah is greater than those who did participate. The Ramban takes issue with this explanation for he cannot understand why the Mitzvah of lighting the Menorah is considered greater than the offering of each Nasi from each tribe. The Ramban therefore explains that the consolation was that the lighting was GD’s promise that in the future when Judaism will be endangered from the threat of Hellenistic culture and assimilation, the Chashmona’im, descendents of Aharon, will rise and courageously rescue Judaism from this dire threat.
Rav Soloveitchik, however, asks how this promise of some future glory can satisfy Aharon in his present despondency. His answer is most instructive for all parents, educators and rabbanim. The primary role of the Kohanim and Levi’im was their service to GD in the Beit HaMikdash. However, since that function probably only required each Kohen and Levi to be in the Temple for about two weeks of the year, the vast majority of time was spent teaching Torah to the people. As Moshe’S final Beracha to the Tribe of Levi (Devarim 33;10), that they were mandated “Yoru Mishpatecha L’Yaakov,V’Tora’techa L’Yisrael” To teach Your Laws to Jacob and Your Torah to Isreal. Similarly, the Navi Malachi records the same idea (2;7) “Ki Siftei Kohen Yish’meru Da’at, V’Torah Yevak’shu Mi’Pihem” (For the lips of the Kohen should safeguard knowledge, and the people should seek teaching from his mouth; for he is an agent of HaShem). In other words, the tribe of Levi was responsible for lighting the flame of Torah into the heart of every Jew, KI NER MITZVAH, V’TORAH OHR.
However, the problem with teaching Torah is that the reward usually come at some future date. A teacher, a rebbe, or a rabbi spends many hours preparing to transmit something of value to his young talmidim. The students, eager to learn, apply themselves and master the material. Yet, not many of them appreciate the value of what they have been taught in their younger years. Only much later, in their adult years, do they, with a grateful glance backwards, finally understand the wisdom that their devoted rebbe or teacher, sought to convey. Only then, when some positive feedback comes back to him does he feel rewarded. That Is true with rabbis and parents as well.