The Torah reading for Chanukah comes from Sefer Bamidbar, and it describes the inauguration of the Mishkan and the offerings that each Nasi brought on behalf of their tribe. The connection between the two is that the laining for Chanukah commemorates the dedication of the Mishkan while the holiday we celebrate recognizes the re-dedication of the Bais HaMikdash after it was plundered by the Greeks. One can imagine the fanfare that came along with the joyous occasion of anointing the Mishkan for use. The excitement the nesiim exhibited must’ve been palpable, able to have been felt by all around. Yet, the commentators explain that there was one person who was a bit downtrodden by this momentous day: Aharon HaKohen.
Rashi quotes from the Midrash that when Aharon saw all the tribal heads bringing their offerings for sacrifice, he was disheartened and felt as if God did not desire his avodah nor the service of anyone else from his tribe in the chanukas haMishkan. In turn, Hashem responded to Aharon’s dejected state by telling him that his portion is greater than that of the Nesiim, as he will light the neros in the Mishkan twice a day, every day. This is why the two passages in the Torah are connected, as immediately sensing Aharon’s frustration at seeing the Nesiim bring their tribe’s korbanos, the next perek begins with Hashem commanding Aharon to light the lamps of the Menorah. Even though he wasn’t involved in this particular ceremony, Aharon’s role in the Mishkan of greater significance.
Ramban does not necessarily agree with this approach. There were a number of other things that Hashem could’ve consoled Aharon with instead of only the Menorah. What about the ketores that was brought twice a day, or the various daily korbanos brought by the Kohanim? What about the avodah on Yom Kippur, that only Aharon alone could perform or the ability to go in and out of the innermost sanctum of God? The entire nation of Kohanim are separate and holy from the rest of the Jewish people, and there are so many other ways that God could have soothed Aharon in the course of his discomfort.
Nachmanides continues that the reason that lighting the Menorah is what was used by Hashem to pacify Aharon was very specific. The lighting of the lamps in the Mishkan is an allusion to the lighting of the lamps that would take place during the second Temple period. This second lighting would be brought about by Aharon’s descendants. The Midrash concludes that when the Temple is not standing, none of the mitzvos pertaining to it are nullified. That includes the korbanos as well as lighting the Menorah. However, the lights that would be kindled as alluded to earlier were not only the ones lit in the Temple, but the ones that each and every Jew lights during Chanukah. The Beis HaMikdash may be non-extant, but the commandment to light our Chanukios each Chanukah is a mitzvah that applies even today.
Rabbi Soloveitchik sheds more light on this subject. Had it not been for the care and concern that Aharon and Shevet Levi showed for the Mishkan, who knows what state it would have been in for the dedication. He writes “today we celebrate Aharon’s Chanukah. Through him and because of him, the princes of today are able to stand up and stand out. What you do, Aharon, is greater than what they do.”
Aharon was sullen over not being able to participate in the chanukas haMishkan like the Nesiim were. Nevertheless, he, through his valiant descendants, merited greatness and an overarching impact that extended long past the destruction of the Temple.