TETZAVEH (Exodus, 27:20-30:10)/Zachor/Purim — “Light up your Life!”

This week, we are introduced to the laws of the Kohanim.  These Priests, descendants of Aaron, were in charge of the Temple Service.  One of their assignments was the daily requirement to light the golden Menorah.  They were required to fill the Menorah with “clear olive oil, crushed for lighting, to light the continuous light.” (Exodus, 27:20) 

The Menorah, which remained lit 24/7/365, could only be fueled with oil that was “crushed for lighting.”  Olives were crushed by hand in a mortar until a single drop, totally clear of sediment, came out.  This “custom-made” clear olive oil, crushed for lighting, was the only oil that was acceptable for the Menorah.  (Obviously, they went through a lot of olives!) 

After the first drop came out, the olives were ground in a mill.  The resultant oil, although unfit for the Menorah, was acceptable as an ingredient in meal offerings.  Rashi explains that the Menorah lighting oil could not have any sediment in it.  For the meal offerings, however, this was not a problem. 

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of Blessed Memory, explains why the Menorah was different from the meal offerings.  The oil for the meal offerings also had to be clear.  Whatever sediment was in the oil could be filtered out, and then the oil could be used.  The oil for the Menorah was disqualified if it had EVER contained sediment. 

The Menorah, explained Rabbi Feinstein, is a source of light.  It is symbolic of a national leader, who “illuminates” his nation with Torah instruction.  There can be no “sediment,” no appearance of impropriety.  Even after “filtering,” once the apparent misconduct has been explained away, the taint remains.  Not everyone may have heard the explanation, and not everyone may accept the explanation.  Rabbi Feinstein says that it is not good enough to have a “clarification” of our possible “sedimentary” behavior.  One’s actions should be CLEAR, totally beyond question.

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Even Aaron himself had a bit of a problem in this regard.  When Moses was told by G-d to designate Aaron as the High Priest, he was a bit surprised.  Moses was disappointed with his brother. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Tablets of the Ten Commandments, he was shocked to see the nation worshiping a calf that Aaron had made.  How could his brother have done such a terrible thing?  How could he have participated in this national sin?! 

G-d explained to Moses that He knew that Aaron’s intentions were honorable.  Aaron had actually attempted a delaying tactic, hoping to delay the Golden Calf Mass until Moses could arrive.  Although his actions had the APPEARANCE of impropriety, G-d understood where Aaron was coming from, and He now made sure that Moses understood as well.  It took an explanation from G-d to totally remove the “sediment” from Moses’ view of his brother’s actions.

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We do not have G-d acting as our PR agent, explaining our questionable deeds to dubious onlookers.  G-d knows when we are doing the right thing; our neighbors don’t.  It behooves us all to always act properly, 24/7/365.  It’s not good enough to be right, we have to ACT right.  We must make sure that all our actions are clear olive oil, allowing us to shine brightly for all to see. 

Have a great Shabbos and a happy Purim.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

 “Hide and Seek”  (2010) 

… when a righteous man like Moses says something, G-d listens.  Moses “cursed” himself, albeit conditionally … Even that request could not go totally unanswered … 

Read more

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 “Heartburn — Full Time!” (2008) 

…Torah study is a full-time job: 

This Book of the Torah is not to leave your mouth.  You shall contemplate it day and night, in order to observe, to do, all that is written in it.  (Joshua, 1:8) 

… Rabbi Yochanan … said that if one recites the Shema every morning and every evening, he has fulfilled the requirement of “This Book of the Torah is not to leave your mouth.  You shall contemplate it day and night.” 

…   How… do we define a few moments of prayer in the morning and then again in the evening as a fulfillment of that verse?  A quick 2-minute Shema twice a day, spending the rest of the day engaged in trivial pursuits, and we call that “contemplating it day and night”?  Who are we trying to fool? … 

Read more.

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  “Clothes FAKE the Man” (2007) 

…How does such an event take place?  How do children of Holocaust survivors participate in a conference whose purpose was to deny the obvious truth?  How could they stand arm-in-arm with people who want to see them dead? 

There are only two possibilities.  They are either wicked, evil, despicable people, or they are out of their minds… 

Read more

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“Light up your Life!” (2006) 

…The Menorah, which remained lit 24/7/365, could only be fueled with oil that was “crushed for lighting.”  Olives were crushed by hand in a mortar until a single drop, totally clear of sediment, came out.  This “custom-made” clear olive oil, crushed for lighting, was the only oil that was acceptable for the Menorah.  (Obviously, they went through a lot of olives!) 

After the first drop came out, the olives were ground in a mill.  The resultant oil, although unfit for the Menorah, was acceptable as an ingredient in meal offerings.  Rashi explains that the Menorah lighting oil could not have any sediment in it.  For the meal offerings, however, this was not a problem. 

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of Blessed Memory, explains why the Menorah was different from the meal offerings… 

Read more.

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“Tea Leaves and Poison Ivy” (2005) 

Yale University is one of the most prestigious centers of learning in the world.  There is a great deal of knowledge that can be acquired in that historic institution. 

I once tried to read a Yale diploma.  There was a problem.  While I can speak, read, and understand, at various levels of proficiency, English, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Yiddish, I wasn’t prepared for the diploma from “Universitatis Yalensis.”  When it comes to reading or understanding Latin, as the saying goes, “It’s Greek to me!” 

But wait! I noticed an old friend! Was that – yes! It was! – Hebrew! Perhaps I would be able to read something after all. The logo consisted of an open book with Hebrew letters… 

Yale University!  That honored, venerable storehouse of knowledge!  How could people who are so intelligent act so goofy?! … 

Read more.

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“Galbanum in Spice, so Everything’s Nice!” (2004) 

… The Priest was required to burn incense on a special Altar every morning and every afternoon.  The sweet smell of the incense serves to endear us to our Creator.  In fact, the Talmud tells us that while Moses was in Heaven receiving the Torah, the Angel of Death divulged to him that he could “assuage” G-d’s anger with incense.  (See Deuteronomy, 17:6-15, where Aaron ends a Divine plague by igniting incense.) 

Why was the incense so special and powerful?… 

Read more.

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“Dress to Impress” (2003) 

… Why is the Torah putting so much emphasis on clothes?  Does it really matter how the Kohain is dressed?  Doesn’t that seem superficial?  Isn’t it what’s inside, what’s in his heart, that really counts? … 

Read more.

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“Bless Your Heart!”  (2002)

… Wouldn’t it be great to always know the correct answer to your question? 

In the Temple, this was the case.  The High Priest wore a breastplate … embedded with stones that lit up to answer questions. … When the High Priest was asked a question, certain letters lit up.  The High Priest would then determine the answer by figuring out what the letters were spelling. 

How did this lofty and holy work end up in the hands of the “Aaronites?”  What did Aaron do to deserve such honor? … 

Read more.

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 This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on March 9, 2006 at 7:26 am  Leave a Comment  

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