This afternoon on the eve of Avi's fifth yahrzeit, I gave a devar torah at seudah sh'lisheet. These are the approximate words:
We just read Terumah. Avi was scheduled to layn Terumah at the Hebrew HS of New England 5 years ago after the Presidents’ Week break. That was not to be.
When he was twelve, Avi had spotted and perused in the Gibeley’s home an English translation of the 15th century commentary of Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno. When his bar mitzvah came, Avi received his own copy of that sefer from the Gibeleys.
Terumah has passage that about the commandment to fashion a golden menorah (Exodus 25:31-37. It was to be placed in the Mishkan and, later, in the Temple in Jerusalem.
I chose this passage because Avi’s lengthy bar mitzvah portion on the 8th day of Chanuka in Sefer Bamidbar concludes with the commandments on the placement and lighting of the seven wicks. I will use Rabbi Sforno’s commentary on Terumah, which refers to one of the menorah verses in the Chanuka reading.
וְעָשִׂיתָ מְנוֹרַת זָהָב טָהוֹר
וְעָשִׂיתָ מְנרַת זָהָב טָהור כֻּלָּהּ. אַחַר סִדּוּר שְׁנֵי הַכְּתָרִים, וְהֵם כֶּתֶר תּורָה בָּאָרון וְכֶתֶר מַלְכוּת בַּשֻּׁלְחָן, סִדֵּר עִנְיַן מְנורָה, מִקְשָׁה אַחַת, וְאור נֵרותֶיהָ אֶחָד, כְּאָמְרו,
וְהֵאִיר עַל עֵבֶר פָּנֶיהָ…
וְזֶה שֶׁיִּהְיֶה אור נֵרות הַיָּמִין וְנֵרות הַשְּׂמאל מְכֻוָּן אֶל הָאֶמְצָעִי. וְכֵן רָאוּי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה עִנְיַן הָאור הַשִּׂכְלִי בַּחֵלֶק הָעִיּוּנִי וְגַם כֵּן אורו בַּחֵלֶק הַמַּעֲשִׂי, שֶׁיִּהְיוּ פונִים אֶל הָאור הָעֶלְיון לְעָבְדו שְׁכֶם אֶחָד, כִּי אָז יָאִירוּ כֻלָּם, כְּמו שֶׁיָּעַד בַּמְּנורָה בְּאָמְרו "בְּהַעֲלתְךָ אֶת הַנֵּרות, אֶל מוּל פְּנֵי הַמְּנורָה יָאִירוּ שִׁבְעַת הַנֵּרות.. וְזֶה מַעֲשֵׂה הַמְּנרָה מִקְשָׁה" (במדבר ח, ב ד), כִּי בִּהְיות כָּל הָאור מְכֻוָּן לְאֶחָד בְּעִנְיַן הַמִּקְשָׁה הַמּורֶה אַחְדוּת, אָז נִרְאֶה אור כִּי יָהֵל מִן הַמָּאור הַגָּדול.
My translation with interpolations:
After God had arranged for the Crown of Torah to be placed in the Ark and the Crown of Kingship to be placed on the Shulchan (table), He arranged for a menorah to be made from pure gold and that the light of all the wicks should combine into one light, as the Torah states in verses 31 and 37:
“All of it shall be from one piece…to give off light over against it (the center lamp).”
Rabbi Sforno explains that the wicks on the right side of the menorah and the wicks on the left side should all be directed towards the wick at the center. It’s proper that this be so, because the lights on one side represent the intellectual part of the Torah, and the lights on the other side represent the performance of practical mitzvoth. They all point towards the Divine Light at the center to serve Him of one accord, because then, all will combine and illuminate together, just as it specifies in Sefer Bamidbar: “When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against the central lamp…And this is the work of the menorah, it should be fashioned out of one piece…”
When all the light is directed to just one--just as there was just one slab of gold to teach us the lesson of unity—then the lights will be seen as shining from one great light.
The translator of Avi’s book explains: “The central theme of the menorah is unity—the unity of Israel and…of God… By bending the wicks…to the center, which represents the Divine light, we are taught that all segments of Israel and all areas of Torah are to be united together and directed to a common purpose… [T]he light of Torah and of Israel shall shine forth, emanating from the one great source of light – Almighty God.”
Avi was like the menorah, absorbing light from his Torah and rabbinic studies, and sharing light with his classmates, showing them how to perform mitzvoth such as tefilla. (I expanded on this extemporaneously)