Parshat Beha’alotecha begins with the instruction to light the Menorah in the Mishkan, and though not explicit in the verse, our Rabbis explain that the Kohen would stand on a stone in which three steps had been cut out in order to light the Menorah.
But as Rabbi Mordechai Carlebach explains in his Havatzelet HaSharon, the very mention of these steps is strange.
Based on what we know of the measurements of the Menorah, it is clear that it would have been possible to prepare and light the Menorah without the use of these steps. Moreover, it also seems very clear from a variety of sources that the lighting the Menorah was equally valid were the Kohen not to use these steps. So why have steps in front of the Menorah?
To answer this question Rabbi Carlebach quotes and examines numerous rabbinic sources, but after a thorough examination of the topic he reaches a very simple yet very powerful conclusion which is that while the steps may not have been necessary for the preparation and lighting of the Menorah, they made the task easier, and it was for this reason that they were available for all who wished to use them.
Nowadays there are many tools that we have to make our mitzvah observance easier, but it is our responsibility to consider the ways in which we can make Jewish observance easier – both physically and psychologically – for others as well.
To give just one example, one may regard the provision of yoatzot halakha to be comparable to the set of steps by the Menorah, whereby these female halakhic advisors help to guide those women who find it easier to consult with other women on matters of family purity to reach the ideal standard of halakhic observance.
Today as we consider how the great majority of Jews are not fully observant, our question should be what other aspects of Jewish living would benefit from metaphorical sets of steps which, while perhaps not necessary, may make Jewish mitzvah observance that much easier or attractive to the wider public.