Parashat Behaalotecha: Maintaining Enthusiasm for Misvot
Parashat Behaalotecha begins with the Misva of the Menorah, which was kindled by the Kohen each afternoon in the Bet Hamikdash. The Torah outlines the basic requirements of this Misva, and then concludes, “Va’ya’as Ken Aharon” – “Aharon did so.” Meaning, Aharon, the Kohen Gadol, complied with this command and kindled the Menorah as he was commanded.
Rashi, commenting on this verse, writes that the Torah here gives praise to Aharon “She’lo Shina” – because he did not deviate from G-d’s command. This is the meaning of “Va’ya’as Ken Aharon” – that Aharon is praiseworthy for doing as he was told and not deviating from G-d’s instructions.
The question naturally arises as to why Aharon was deserving of special praise for complying with this command. If we were given an explicit command from Hashem, wouldn’t we eagerly abide? Moreover, Aharon was not just given a command, but also blessed with a special privilege, of being the first one to ever kindle the Menorah in the Mishkan. Is it not obvious that he would do as he was told? Why does he deserve special praise for fulfilling the command of the Menorah?
To answer this question, we might observe the way a Bar Mitzva boy approaches the Misva of Tefillin after his Bar Mitzva. When he puts them on for the first time, he is overjoyed and takes special pride in his new pair of Tefillin. He lovingly places the box on his arm, recites the Beracha and wraps the strap. Gradually, however, the excitement wanes, and just a year or so later, he puts on his Tefillin thoughtlessly, hardly even thinking about the fact that he is fulfilling a Biblical command. This is what naturally happens when we grow accustomed to something. The initial excitement and enthusiasm gradually diminishes, and we perform the action perfunctorily, without much feeling or emotion.
The Sages cited by Rashi praise Aharon “She’lo Shina,” which literally means, “because he did not change.” The enthusiasm with which he kindled the Menorah the first time remained throughout the years. Each and every time he performed the Misva, he did it with the same excitement and awe with which he had kindled the lamps the first time.
How we do follow Aharon’s example? How can we retain some level of excitement and enthusiasm for the actions we perform each and every day, such as prayer, Berachot, Sisit and Tefillin?
The answer is that we must recognize what a privilege each and every Misva is. Imagine if we were asked to do a certain favor for the President of the United States every week. Wouldn’t we relish the opportunity? Wouldn’t we approach it with vigor and excitement, and carefully attend to every detail? And wouldn’t we do the favor even if we felt tired or a bit under the weather? After all, when presented with such a privilege, who would let a little lethargy or the flu get in the way?
Hashem is far more powerful and important than the President, than any head of state or person on earth. Each day, He graciously gives us the privilege of serving Him, speaking with Him, and doing what He wants. The more we recognize what a precious opportunity each Misva is, the greater excitement and enthusiasm we will invest in our Misvot, and the more meaningful and fulfilling they will be.