Monday, Jun 10, 2024

Ner Maarovi

The poor man was shattered as his life had come apart at the seams. Eitan, a modern Orthodox Israeli, had aspirations of building a nice family based on the tenets of the Torah, but, unfortunately, the woman he married saw things differently. Gradually, she drifted away from Yiddishkeit, causing a rift between them. Eventually, she filed for divorce in a secular court. Not only did he lose his spouse, but he also lost his two young children in a custody battle. Now the chances of them growing up the way he had dreamed were greatly diminished.

But at least there was some hope. The court’s verdict stipulated that the woman may not move out of the country with the children, and she was required to register the boys in a religious school. His hopes, however, were dashed when she ignored the court’s conditions and moved to America, enrolling the children in a public school. Eitan was depressed, with no one to turn to. Life seemed so bleak as his children had lost any connection to Yiddishkeit. 


Then came a ray of hope. Someone had tipped him off that his ex-wife was visiting Eretz Yisroel with the boys. This was a brazenly foolish move on her part, as she could be put in jail and, in all probability, would lose custody of the children. After conferring with his lawyer, Eitan was confident that if he notified the court, he would get the boys back. Now his despair turned into nervous anticipation, and he envisioned what it would be like to bond again with his children and the religious chinuch that he would give them. But he wouldn’t take action before seeking the counsel of his rov.  


His heart began to sink, however, when the rov wasn’t as gung ho about the idea as he was. Logically, said the rov, it did seem that the father should notify the authorities, and, yes, it was a golden opportunity to gain custody of the boys. “But we, Yidden, don’t make decisions of such great import without first discussing it with a gadol. It isn’t a simple matter to take children away from their mother.” He suggested that they go together to the gadol hador, Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach ztl, to hear his daas Torah.


What would we have advised the father in this situation? “Sure, go for it. The witch deserves to go to jail for what she did to you, and it was a blatant disregard of the court order and your rights as a parent. It’s a matter of spiritual pikuach nefesh. Lo saamod al dam reiecha is said about saving another Yid. Surely this applies to your own children.” But we digress.


Soon, they found themselves sitting in the presence of Rav Shach, whose Torah and clear hashkafah illuminated the lives of the generation. He spoke to Eitan, lending him a sympathetic ear, sharing his pain and frustration. And then he offered his advice.


“Do you know how to cook?” asked the gaon.


“No,” said Eitan.


“Can you bake?”




“Do you have a television in your home?”


“No,” came the answer.


“You know, of course, that in the neighborhood where your children live, people have numerous televisions in their homes. Your children are comfortable with their mother. They will not be happy being taken from her to live with you. Continue to daven and learn and Hashem will help.”


Eitan was totally crestfallen. He didn’t understand, but as his rov assured him, “Our only way to survive in the darkness is by following daas Torah.”


Years passed. When the older son reached the age of eighteen, he returned to Eretz Yisroel to serve in the army. From time to time, he was granted a weekend leave, which allowed him to spend precious time with his father. Amazingly enough, despite the years of being isolated from religion, he had an inclination for spiritual matters – a Torah thought, a maaseh, Jewish history. Slowly, but surely, with every visit to his father, he was drawn closer and closer to Yiddishkeit. Even more amazingly, the scenario repeated itself exactly with the younger brother. Today, both sons are learning in kollelim in Eretz Yisroel.


The father’s tefillos and tears accomplished their goal. Now Eitan realized the potency of daas Torah in its fullest sense.


– – – – –


And you shall command the Bnei Yisroel that they should take for you pure olive oil pressed for illumination to kindle a lamp continually” (Shemos 27:20).


The words “to kindle a lamp continually,” said in the singular, imply that the main focus here was on one particular lamp. Indeed, the Ramban says that the Ner Tomid which the posuk speaks about was the Ner Maarovi, the Western Candle that was the only one to burn the entire night and up until the next evening while the others had already gone out. The implication is that the use of the special, purely pressed oil applies primarily to this specific candle. Why was this candle so unique? To understand this, let us first learn about the inner meaning of the menorah as explained by Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch.


The Ner Maarovi, according to one opinion, was the center candle named so because it tilted towards the Kodesh Hakodoshim in the west. Each of the six side branches tilted towards the center candle. In reality, there were six candles and a seventh, similar to the six days of the week and the holy day of Shabbos. This is no coincidence. The number six represents the physical briah that appeared during the six days of creation, while the seventh is the spiritual component that focuses on Hashem’s resting, the Me’ein Olam Haba.


While the Menorah, in general, symbolizes wisdom, the seven lights correlate with the seven various categories of chochmah. The six lights that branch out represent the six classes of wisdom of the briah. The seventh and center light is emblematic of chochmas haTorah, which preceded the briah.


The six lights bow towards the middle light to show that they are subordinate to the heavenly wisdom of Torah.


Now we can understand why the pure, clear oil was especially associated with the Ner Maarovi. Torah specifically necessitates purity in its highest level, not tolerating any added substances that compromise its lessons in the slightest. There are many people who are knowledgeable in Torah, but acquiring seichel of Torah that is able to guide others requires abstinence from the pleasures of Olam Hazeh and elevating oneself from the influences of this world (Shaarei Simcha).     


Let us imagine ourselves living thousands of years ago in Shushan Habirah. The Jews are invited to a gala feast to be held in the palace of the mighty King Achashveirosh, who wants to endear himself to his subjects. The downtrodden Yidden, after seventy years in golus, could benefit from a good relationship with the monarch, so of course simple logic dictates that they should attend this event.


But how could they participate in a banquet of non-kosher food? No problem. “For so had the king ordered all the officers of his house that they should do according to the will of every man” (Esther 1:8). Who is “every man” referring to? The will of Mordechai Hatzaddik and the will of Haman Harasha. Mordechai willed that every Jew should eat only kosher food, so the king provided a kosher kitchen with kosher delicacies. Haman would have liked the Jews to eat non-kosher food, and this of course was available in abundance.


Yes, there was shechitah with every imaginable hechsher. And the wine? Only the finest that Kedem, Baron Herzog and Carmel had to offer. But what about tznius? This, too, was taken care of with the most kosher mechitzah available. The women would feast in a totally different room together with Queen Vashti. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this extravagant event? And of course it’s a mitzvah to go, because of shalom malchus, maintaining good relations with the monarch. The Jews were anxious to attend this spectacular dinner. But wait. There was a fly in the ointment.


Amongst the Jews of Shushan lived Mordechai Hatzaddik, distinguished member of the Sanhedrin. Whereas human logic dictated that it was imperative to attend the king’s feast, his farsighted vision of daas Torah saw otherwise. Hashem wanted us to be the Am Segulah, which doesn’t mingle with the goyim. Becoming part of their circles compromises our kedushah and weakens our bond with Hashem. Once we leave our sheltered confines, there is no telling how many opportunities for sin may come our way. Mordechai saw participation in the banquet as a form of rebellion against Hashem. So he declared openly a prohibition against attending the feast.


One can only imagine the backlash against this announcement. Mordechai is old-fashioned and narrow-minded. What a fanatic. Doesn’t he realize that it is a great advantage for us as a minority to have good connections to royal circles? Isn’t he aware that our absence from this event will just evoke hatred against the Jews? And they ignored Mordechai’s plea. “We are from the new, with-it generation. We understand better.”


Little did they know and little did they see what was transpiring in the inner world at that moment.


On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was satisfied with wine” (Esther 1:10). And before that, Chazal ask, he wasn’t satisfied with wine? He had been drinking for many days prior. This is alluding to the King of kings, Hakadosh Boruch Hu. For the first six days of the feast, Mordechai and the Sanhedrin fasted and davened to Hashem that He not punish the Yidden for their participation in the festivities. On the seventh day, Hashem was satisfied with the tefillos of the tzaddikim which were as sweet as wine, so he initiated our redemption from golus by removing Vashti from the scene. This led to Esther becoming queen, the elevation of Mordechai, and the building of Bayis Sheini.


LaYehudim hoysah orahThe Jews had light” (Esther 8:16). Chazal say that “orah zu Torah.” Nowhere do we find that the Jews were prohibited from learning Torah. Why, then, does the posuk say that through the salvation we had regained the Torah? No, the Jews never lost the Torah and were not prevented from learning it. But they had forgotten a basic concept: a Yid does not live by human logic alone. Even the most brilliant mind is limited and subjected by the physical world. The tzaddikei hador are called Ner Maarovi, for they possess the light of Torah that illuminates their thinking beyond the confines of this world. We are only able to survive the darkness of Olam Hazeh if we follow this light. It was this luminant that helped us see through the black clouds of hester ponim that preceded the yeshuah of Purim.


The Yidden had questioned Mordechai’s actions. They wondered about his edict not to attend the seudah and his stubborn refusal to bow down to Haman, which got them all into trouble. In the end, they saw that their participation in the seudah of the king did not win them any favor in his eyes, for he plotted with Haman to eradicate them. And they saw how Mordechai’s actions were the catalyst for their salvation. Now they saw how true light is Torah and how they must never deviate from the instructions of the gedolim. Indeed, from here on, malchus was given to the chachmei hador. Man malki? Rabonon.


The Ner Maarovi was also constantly burning, even after the others went out. The six lamps representing the wisdom of Olam Hazeh were temporary, for this entire world is transient, merely a corridor for the World to Come. The seventh candle represents the chochmah of Olam Haba, which is eternal. It was therefore never extinguished. It is a pure, pristine light that cannot be extinguished or compromised by the winds and obscurity of this temporal world. This is one of the most essential messages of the megillah. No wonder the posuk says: “And these days of Purim should never cease among the Jews nor shall their remembrance perish from their descendants” (Esther 9:28). For this light emanating from the megillah will live on forever.



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