19 Feb 2016 Pure Olive Oil, Crushed for Illumination
In the first two verses of this week’s parsha, Parshas Tetzaveh, the Torah commands us regarding the lighting of the Menorah in the Mishkan. The opening pasuk instructs Moshe as follows: וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית–לַמָּאוֹר: לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר, תָּמִיד – And you (Moshe) shall command the Children of Israel that they shall take for you clear olive oil, crushed, for illumination, to light a continual lamp (Ex.27:20). Rashi (ibid) notes that the olives were crushed in a mortar, and not in a mill, so that there would be no sediments in the oil. And after the olives were crushed in the mortar, they were ground in the mill to extract further oil through a second pressing. However, only the initial oil that was extracted, from when the olives were crushed in the mortar, was fit to be used in the lighting of the menorah.
What significance is there in the fact that, not only must the oil be clear olive oil, but that it must also be extracted by crushing the olives? And it is only this clear oil which can be used for the holy work of lightning the golden menorah every day.
The fact that the oil can only be extracted through crushing teaches us all an important lesson: It is through the difficulties in life, the challenges we face, the “crushing” times that befall us, that we become refined, clear, pure and illuminated.
And it is this oil – it is this person! it is this nation! – that emerges brighter and stronger, with its flame rising upwards on its own, a source of continuos light.
Certainly during the crushing process, it is oftentimes difficult, perhaps even unfathomable, to accept that this pain will make us stronger, but the Torah teaches us that it is so.
The Klausenberger Rebbe zt’l, who himself survived the Holocaust, but whose rebetzin and eleven children did not, HY”D, was once asked, during the raging inferno of the war years, “So, Rabbi, what do you say say now about the future of the Jewish people?”
“It will be good,” the Klausenberger replied.
Seeing that the man was confused by the reply, the Rebbe explained, “If you were to ask me about my personal future, I would not know what to answer, for I am not a prophet. But with regard to the future of the Jewish people, I know with certainty that our people will survive! And they, the accursed evildoers, will disappear and be destroyed.
“This phenomenon has repeated itself many times during the history of our people. Any enemy that rose against us and attacked us was wiped out at the end. There is no longer any trace of our enemies, but the Jewish nation has survived.”
Though our crushing is painful beyond words and heartbreakingly difficult to understand, it somehow refines us, so that we emerge clear and bright, shining lamps, rising upward to our Father in heaven.
As we approach the holiday of Purim and recall the designs of wicked Haman, who arose to destroy us, and as we begin to prepare for Pesach and recall cruel Pharaoh who bathed in the blood of Jewish babies (see Rashi to Ex.2:23)….And as we yet again (!) bury another holy soul, a beautiful young son, brother, husband, father, soldier, and Jew, Tuvia Yanai Weissman HY”D… And as the Land weeps, as our people weep, as yet another child cries for its father who is no longer, let us be inspired by the words of the Klausenberger Rebbe, “Any enemy that rose against us and attacked us was wiped out at the end. There is no longer any trace of (those) enemies, but the Jewish nation has survived.”
וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית–לַמָּאוֹר: לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר, תָּמִיד – And you shall command the Children of Israel that they shall take for you clear olive oil, crushed, for illumination, to light a continual lamp.
Dovid Ha’Melech assures us that הַזֹּרְעִים בְּדִמְעָה— בְּרִנָּה יִקְצֹרוּ – They that sow in tears shall reap in joy (Ps.126:5). May we merit the day when our Merciful Father declares that His children are now clear enough, refined enough and pure enough, so that the process of crushing may finally come to an end…So that our mouths will be filled with eternal laughter and our tongue with song (ibid, v.2).
May it be immediate and in our days, amen v’amen.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,