Parasha Behaalotecha (When You Raise): The Meaning of the Menorah

Parasha Behaalotecha (When You Raise) בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ

Numbers 8:1–12:16; Zechariah 2:14–4:7; Revelation 11:1–14

“Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the seven lamps, they are to light the area in front of the lampstand [menorah].’”  (Numbers 8:1–2)

Last week, in Parasha Naso, the Levite men between the ages of 30 and 50 were counted and assigned tasks for transporting the Tabernacle.

This week, in Parasha Behaalotecha, we read that Aaron set the lights of the Menorah (which was hammered from a single piece of gold according to the pattern that God showed Moses) so that the area in front of the Menorah was lit.

Only Aaron and his sons, the Cohanim (priests), were entrusted with the important duty of lighting the menorah.

The rabbis say that Moses’ brother Aaron was chosen because of his reliability in performing a menial task day after day.

There is a lesson in that for us.

It’s easy to feel enthusiastic about a task that is new and fresh, but we need to master the ability to sustain our enthusiasm, even once the novelty wears off.

God honors this kind of reliability.

Even the most mundane of our daily chores can be a joy when we do them “unto the Lord.”

God is not only interested in what we consider our spiritual activities—reading our Bible, attending congregational services, praying, or sharing our faith.

Adonai enjoys being part of every detail of our lives, whether we are working, playing, resting, eating, or just doing our chores—everything from feeding our pets to folding the laundry.

He also enjoys being part of our interaction with others.

Prominent Jewish Symbol: The Menorah

“I see a solid gold lampstand [menorah] with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights.”  (Zechariah 4:2)

The Menorah is probably Judaism’s best known symbol.

It is especially prominent during the season of Chanukah, when the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem is celebrated.

In fact, lighting the Menorah was one of the very first tasks that the Maccabees (Jewish freedom fighters) accomplished when they reclaimed the Holy Temple from Antiochus IV, a vainglorious Syrian king who sought to entirely denationalize the Jewish People.  (Jewish Encyclopedia)

For three years, the Temple had been desecrated by Antiochus who erected an altar to Zeus in it and ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the altar.

That is one of the reasons why the Menorah has come to symbolize spiritual victory that is gained “not by might, nor by power” (Zechariah 4:6), but by God’s Spirit, as is clearly emphasized by today’s Haftarah (prophetic portion) in Zechariah.

Although we need to be strong and overcome all the obstacles that are preventing us from fulfilling our destiny in Messiah, the Apostle Paul (Rabbi Shaul) said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Why?  Because we are to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10) and not strong in ourselves and our own power.

It’s also good to remember that darkness is not driven out by force, but by light.  Just as the Menorah’s seven lamps brought light to the Temple, Yeshua brings light to our hearts, minds and lives.

His light dispels the darkness, and we are to bring His light to the world (Matthew 5:14; see also John 12:36).

The Meaning of the Menorah

“Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing.  These are the seven spirits of God.”  (Revelation 4:5)

The seven branches of the Menorah can be understood to represent the spiritual attributes described in the Messianic Prophecy of Isaiah 11:

“The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”  (Isaiah 11:2)

On the Temple’s seven-branched Menorah, the Spirit of the Lord can be interpreted as being the center light, with the other six branches representing the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Yeshua, the Light of the World, certainly fulfilled Isaiah 11, as can be seen in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament):

  • The Spirit of the Lord rested on Him (Isaiah 11:2; Matthew 3:16; Luke 4:1, 14, 18, 21);
  • He was wise and because of that, able to pronounce sound judgment, and answer the ensnaring questions of the Pharisees (Isaiah 11:2; Colossians 2:2-3);
  • He was not only a gifted counselor, He was courageous and mighty in the execution of His counsel (Luke 4:36; John 8:10-11); and
  • He knew the deep things of God, and was also genuinely reverential and obedient to the Father (John 5:30).

The Seven Menorahs

The Book of Revelation can help us discover deeper meaning in the seven lights of the Menorah.

Yochanan (John) had a vision of Yeshua (Jesus) standing in the midst of seven golden lamp stands, holding in His right hand seven stars.

“I saw seven golden menorahs, and among the menorahs was someone ‘like a Son of Man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to His feet and with a golden sash around His chest.…  In His right hand He held seven stars, and coming out of His mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword.”  (Revelation 1:12–16)

Yeshua explained to Yochanan that the seven stars were the angels of the seven assemblies and the seven menorahs were the seven assemblies.

“Here is the secret meaning of the seven stars you saw in my right hand, and of the seven gold menorahs: the seven stars are the angels of the seven Messianic communities, and the seven menorahs are the seven Messianic communities.”  (Revelation 1:20)

Further along in the Book of Revelation, John describes, “Seven lamps of fire burning before the throne of God which are the seven spirits of God.”  (Revelation 4:5)

Obviously, the number seven figures prominently in the lights of the Menorah, and in the Book of Revelation.  But why?

Since seven in the Bible represents perfection or completion, as in the seventh day Shabbat (Sabbath), we know that no improvements can be made to that which God has made.  It’s perfect and complete on the Divine side of things.

So it is, too, with those who follow Yeshua.

Although on the Divine side, the Body of Messiah is complete and perfect, on the human side, we need to hold fast to the Light of the World, follow His lead, and repent of our sins.  (Revelation 2:5; see also 2:16 and 3:3)

Following God’s Lead

In this Parasha, we read that as soon as the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was set up, the cloud—God’s manifest presence—covered it.

“On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up, the cloud covered it.  From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire.”  (Numbers 9:15)

When the cloud tarried, the people of Israel remained in place, whether it was for one day or for one year.

Just think of it!  None of us have ever experienced a day when our entire nation would pack up and move.

And it was no small task to dissemble the Tabernacle with all of its parts and furnishings.  It took a team of Levite men between the ages of 30 to 50 to get the job done.

“Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out.”  (Numbers 9:22)

Likewise, in our walk with God, we should be seeking direction from His Spirit.

Sometimes God wants us to move ahead quickly and make great progress in a short period of time.  Other times we simply need to stay in camp and wait until He gives the signal to move again.

Trying to move ahead of the cloud, the manifest presence of God, will only bring frustration.  So will lagging behind if the cloud has moved on.

“He will guard the feet of His saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.  It is not by strength that one prevails.”  (1 Samuel 2:9)

As Believers in Yeshua, our light that comes from the Lord, the True Light, is not meant to be hidden but to be like a beacon on a hill, which beckons all to come toward the light.

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