gap year in israel

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This week in Israel we read the Torah portion of Behaalotecha. It begins with the instruction to Aaron, the high priest, to light the lamps of the sacred Menorah in the sanctuary. Last week’s reading concluded with the offerings that were given to the sanctuary by each of the tribal leaders of the twelve tribes on behalf of their respective tribes. The Midrash states that Aaron was distressed at not being able to contribute with the tribal leaders. G-d responded to him now with the instruction to raise the flames of the Menorah stating that this service was even more precious in G-d’s eyes than all the contributions of the tribal heads. Why was this the case?

While he was a student at Cambridge University, Jonathan Sacks, who would later become the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe. An incredibly intellectual thinker, Sacks probed the reservoirs of the Rebbe’s wisdom with deep philosophical questions. After satisfactorily answering all his queries, the Rebbe turned the tables on Sacks with some questions of his own.

“How many Jewish students are on your campus? What is Jewish life like on campus?” questioned the Rebbe. Sacks answered to the best of his ability. “What are you doing to get more students involved in Jewish life?” asked the Rebbe. Sacks began to make an excuse, “In the situation I find myself in…” The Rebbe stopped him in his tracks. “Nobody finds themselves in a situation. You put yourself in a situation. And if you put yourself in that situation, you can put yourself in another!”

This meeting completely changed Sack’s life course. Reminiscing, he said that what he discovered by the Rebbe was that: “A good leader creates followers. A great leader creates leaders.” Indeed, the Rebbe inspired Sacks to eventually take on the mantle of leadership not just at Cambridge but for the entire nation of Great Britain. The same could be said of Victor Frankel who was ready to quit if not for the call to action of the Rebbe. As a result, he released “A Man’s Search for Meaning” and founded the field of Logo-therapy that has made an incredible impact on millions the world over.

This is why G-d valued the service of the Menorah more than the royal offerings of the tribal leaders. Their offerings came from a place of leaders on behalf of followers. The service of Aaron in raising the lights was the sacred mission of a leader inspiring others to find their own inner light and raise it up. It was a metaphor for the higher path of the leader who creates more leaders. The Talmud tells us that a flame can ignite others without being diminished itself. This is G-d’s message to Aaron and every Jew for all generations. You are a light! By giving of yourself, you will not lose out. On the contrary, your flame will be strengthened in addition to making countless other flames. May we merit to heed this calling!

Shabbat Shalom

-Rabbi Liad Braude

Parsha behaalotcha