“כתית למאור” – [cut for light]
Only the first drops of oil from the cut olive were valid for
use in the Menorah.
From this halachah we can gain a number of insights into the
preferred methods of teaching (as the Menorah represents the teaching of Torah):
- One should teach one idea at a time.
- The lesson should be clearly explained so that the student does not get confused.
- The teacher should be patient with his students, preceding, if necessary,
one "drop" at a time.
- Torah learning is not measured by quantity, but by quality.
- Children should be encouraged to use their abilities and energies, first and
foremost for Torah.
- A Rebbe's expectations of his student should be "clear cut".
- Don’t underestimate the value of each Torah lesson learned.
- A child should not be forced to learn and achieve beyond his capabilities.
(The olive is cut and not squeezed.)
- Torah learning stands apart and above all other intellectual pursuits.
- The child should be asked to review his learning until it is fully understandable
to him, as the first drop is clean and separate from the other substances in the
olive. This idea is repeated in ושננתם לבניך (Devorim 6:7), as Rashi understands
ושננתם to mean sharp (as a tooth). So too, a child's lesson should be crystal
clear in his mind.
- One drop at a time alludes to the drasha of Rebbe Meir that one should teach
students in a short, concise form.
- One drop emphasis limits, meaning the Rebbe should concentrate on the main,
central points of his lesson.
- As the gematria of כתית is the number of years the two Batei Mikdash
stood, the Rebbe should emphasize to his students that Torah learning is the life-giving
source of the Beis Hamikdash and will thereby cause its rebuilding.
"כתית למאור לעלות נר תמיד" – (cut for light to light up a continual
The ultimate goal of teaching is to have the child inculcate
the material so that it will always remain with him. We learn this from our posuk,
that the clearer (כתית) the learning (מאור) the longer its effect will last
(לעלות נר תמיד).
Clarity is the key to a child's remembering his learning. The
learning should be fully accessible to the child as a table prepared with a meal
ready to be eaten. (Rashi in the beginning of Parshas Mishpatim.) The clearer
the message, the deeper it sinks into the recesses of the child's memory.
(לעלות נר תמיד).
We can understand, therefore, כתית…תמיד – that כתית refers
to the time when the two Batei Mikdash stood (as we mentioned) and תמיד refers to
the time of חורבן – the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. This teaches that the
great clarity with which the earlier generations learned Torah enabled Am Yisroel
to survive and learn Torah even during the darkest times in our history.
However, it is not enough for the Rebbe to teach in a clear manner.
The student himself has to learn to learn on his own so that he can serve as his
own propellant and source of inspiration in the future. The less the student has
to rely on others, even his Rebbes, the more independent he becomes in his learning
and the deeper he can penetrate into the recesses of his mind in order to understand
and develop his learning.
A developing child can be compared to, at first, one who is given
a cup of water to drink, then to one who is given a jug to pour for himself from
time to time, then to one who drinks from a pond, then a river and, when he reaches
a full ability to learn and understand on his own, he is compared to a spring, which
has a non-ending source and constantly sprouts forth new water.
We can see the above idea capsulized in לעלות נר תמיד through
answering the following questions:
- Why is לעלות used, while it would apparently be more correct to use להדליק
– to light?
- Also, why is נר -oil container- used for it is not the container which is
lit and even the oil is only lit to produce a flame. Accordingly, the posuk should
have read, אש תמיד (flame) לעלות?
In answer to the first question, לעלות is used to teach that
the Rebbe should teach with his student's future in mind, meaning the student should
be guided to learn in order to eventually perform the mitzvah being studied
as the posuk says "כי נר מצוה ותורה אור". When is the Torah אור? When one learns
in order to fulfill mitzvos (נר), (see also gemora Baba Basra 10b
and Ben Yehoyada there).
Or alternatively, לעלות is used to teach that the Rebbe should
attempt to instill his student with the desire to constantly raise his level of
understanding. Also, Rashi explains in Parshas Beha'alosecha (8:2) that a
step was placed in front of the Menorah which needed to be ascended (לעלות) in order
to light the Menorah. This again teaches that one should look to constantly raise
his student's level of dedication and devotion to learning and other areas of
The second question regarding the use of נר can be answered as
follows: There are four components used to light a fire:
- נר – container
- שמן – oil
- פתיל – wick
- אש – flame
The נר represents that which holds the resultant fire, meaning
the desire, motivation and the necessary approach needed to produce light (fire)
of the Menorah.
The שמן (oil) represents the Torah itself. The wick represents
the Rebbe who channels the Torah to his pupils and the actual fire/light is the
final result of the intention of the above three:
פתיל – שמן – נר.
Thus, לעלות נר תמיד tells us that in order for a student to develop
a continuous (תמיד) love and respect of Torah and its learning, the Rebbe must instill
in his student the desire (נר) and offer him the format (לעלות) to delve deeper
and deeper into Torah.
Just as we have mentioned that the Torah uses נר to say that
from the initial contact with Torah and from the stage of motivation a Rebbe needs
to encourage the child, so too its written כתית למאור, that it's not enough to bring
oil, but in order for the lighting of the oil to be effective it has to be produced
from the very first stage with its role of lighting up the world of those who learn
the Torah in mind.
We see here that clarity of understanding (כתית) creates a desire
to learn more, where great clarity urges the student to learn without end (תמיד).
This continual effort itself produces a new, higher level of understanding and clarity,
says the Ben Ish Chai (אצרות חיים דרכי לימוד התורה עמ' קל"ו).
נר תמיד teaches us, as well, that a Rebbe should not be satisfied
with his student's progress but should encourage him to continue to improve. This
is difficult, for the natural tendency is to praise and reduce demands once a child
has proven himself. In reality, the opposite approach is needed. One should definitely
compliment a student's successful effort, however the student is dependant on his
Rebbe's push forward for his own success. The Rebbe has to walk a very thin line
between compliments and a push forward.
תמיד has another commotion: consistency. We find various mitzvos
in the Torah which are commanded to be done תמיד yet in each mitzvah תמיד
is interpreted differently.
The לחם הפנים (showbread) is also to be brought תמיד and here
תמיד is understood in its plain meaning of always. Meanwhile, the daily sacrifice
is to be brought תמיד, meaning once a day. Here also, the Menorah is to be lit תמיד
and it is referring to once a day (at sunset).
The gematria of the word תמיד when broken down into letters
alludes to this definition of תמיד – consistency, ת = 400, מ = 40, ד = 4, designating
consistency, yet each at its own level. The addition of the letter Yud adds kedusha
and legitimizes each level of consistency.
So to with learning. A teacher should put consistency at the
base of his teaching efforts. Whether regarding tests, homework, learning schedule,
punishments etc., his approach should be guided by consistency. This gives the students
a sense of security and trust in their teacher. They gain respect for the learning
and it gives them the motivation to apply themselves and succeed in their work.
Consistency is such a great virtue that the very first question
on the great day of judgment will be, "Did you learn Torah in a consistent fashion?"
תמיד here is explained by Targum Yonassan ben Uziel and
the Ramban to include both Shabbos and the weekdays and even in a state of
טאומה – spiritual uncleanliness. This teaches that the need for a consistent approach,
behavior or learning program is of top priority. The different periods of time or
spiritual levels are still subject to the virtue of constancy. So too, a Rebbe should
not skip a lesson without due cause and rather than subject his lesson plan to extraneous
factors, he should try to work around the influence of these factors.
(to be continued)