Parshat Tetzaveh 5774: Extracting Pure Oil and Nurturing the Speech, Actions, Intent and Elevation of a Pure Jew

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Tetzaveh is being sponsored by Ayton & Ayelet Lefkowitz and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh to honor the memory of Ayton’s grandmothers: Chana Michla bas Zeev Yitzchak and Miriam bas Avraham, both of blessed memory. To the Lefkowitz family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Tetzaveh 5774: Extracting Pure Oil and Nurturing the Speech, Actions, Intent and Elevation of a Pure Jew

by Moshe Burt

In a way, Parshat Tetzaveh is an extension of Parshat Terumah where, l’chatchila (the way things oughta be), one’s intent should be as pure as the components used in construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and it’s accoutrements. Similarly, Parshat Tetzaveh, the parsha dedicated to the Kohen’s garb, the anointment oil and the Avodah (service) of the Kohanim reflects the purity of the Kehunah as a paradigm to the Jewish people, just as l’chatchila the purity of Jewish people should be a light revealing the ways of Hashem unto the world.

We note that Moshe Rabbeinu is notably absent in our parsha. Both the laws concerning Kohanim and Moshe’s absence seem interwoven with the lesson of the delicate balance between when and how one should choose their words when speaking, and when one should remain silent.

As cited in last week’s sedra, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (Parshat Terumah, pages 204-205) seems to equate “a good name” with living the Torah that you learn. He cites Sefer Shemos, Perek 25, posuk 11 in explaining:

“Cover [the aron] with a layer of pure gold on the inside and the outside and make a gold rim around its top.”

The Talmud (Yoma 72b) states that… a Torah scholar must be pure inside as well as outside to be considered a Talmid Chacham. That is, just as the aron which symbolized Torah knowledge had gold in both the inside and outside, so too a Torah scholar is not someone who just speaks wisdom on the outside, but he must also internalize his wisdom and live… it.

There have been many intellectuals throughout the ages who have espoused profound philosophical ideals. They have expressed the most elevated thoughts of universal love for humanity. But in their own private lives they have been arrogant and cared only for their ideas but not for the people with whom they actually had to deal with on a daily basis…. To be considered a true Torah scholar…, one must practice the lofty ideals that he speaks about. This has held true for all of our revered Torah scholars both in ancient and modern times.

And just as the aron is pure, by virtue of its inner and outer gold, our Parshat Tetzaveh opens with the instruction regarding use of olive oil for the Menorah in the Mishkan:

“You shall command the B’nai Yisrael that they should bring to you pure olive oil, beaten for the lamp, to make an everlasting light burn in the Tent of Meeting…” (Sefer Sh’mos Perek 27, posukim 20-21)

Sefer Shem Mishmuel (Translated to English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski), Parshat Tetzaveh, pages 173-175 cites Sh’mos Rabbah 36:1 which discusses the steps which the picked olives go through to become clear, pure oil: the beating, the crushing, the repeated pressing to extract the pure oil from the olive material.

Shem Mishmuel then questions the implication of Sh’mos Rabbah 36:1 that the nature of B’nai Yisrael is that they repent only if attacked, abused, persecuted — teshuvah by force, i.e. “the recalcitrant husband who refuses to give his wife a get.” Inotherwords, the beating, crushing, pressing of the olive to remove excess waste material is as the force or pressure on a person to expunge negative, destructive ideas or actions and that such action can be beneficial to make one pure.

But Shem Mishmuel ends off his vort by citing Chazal:

“One act of self-reproach in the heart is worth more than many physical lashes.” ( Berachot 7a)

…The purpose of corporal punishment (or national suffering on a wider scale) is to peel away the layers of dross from Yisrael and to reveal their true nature. …When a person is able to subdue his own evil inclination and to do the job without external stimuli, all the better. Then the real personality of Yisrael can shine through, without the need for attack or punishment.

But this author wonders about the possibility of another p’shat on the steps to securing pure oil from raw olives. Does this beating, crushing and repeated pressing to extract the pure oil from the raw olive not equate with the chinuch (the raising, nurturing and education) of a child? Does this extraction of purity not equate l’chatchila with positive inculcation and repeated emulation of parental, rabbinic examples of sanctity and tradition? Many a father praises his son at the son’s Bar Mitzvah, at an auf-ruf, etc. for his many positive traits. Is not all that goes into raising, nurturing and educating a child as with drawing out pure oil from raw olives? And does the equation (of drawing pure oil from raw olives) to the steps of drawing out a pure Jew form the midot and derech of a Tzaddik, of a Scholar who not only speaks wisdom on the outside, but also internalizes and lives his wisdom in speech, in action, in intent?

R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l offers this commentary on the Kehunah and the Bigdei Kehunah (the vestments of the Kohanim) in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman), pages 662-663 in Sefer Sh’mot:

The priestly garments must be supplied and owned by the nation. From this fact alone we draw the important conclusion that only when a Kohen is dressed in these garments can he be considered a Kohen. Only… [in this attire] does he appear as the nation’s servant in the Sanctuary of the Torah. Only thus does his service become the nation’s service in the Sanctuary… Only thus does… his service attain the character of a Mitzvah given to the nation by Hashem in His Torah….

Without these garments, the Kohen is merely an ordinary individual. His actions take on the character of personal preference, and thus are antithetical to the basic idea that the Sanctuary of the Torah is meant to foster.

Without these garments, the individual personality of the officiating Kohen is exposed for all to see, and the weaknesses and faults that afflict even the best among us could easily portray him as a flawed character, far from the ideal that should be embodied by the offerings as a model in harmony with Hashem’s Torah.

When he is clothed in his priestly garments, the Kohen does not appear as he actually is, but as he should be according to the dictates of Hashem’s Torah.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” quotes from our parsha and cites Rabbi Yehuda Leib Bloch:

“And you shall make Holy Garments for Aaron your brother for honor and beauty, and you shall speak to all who are wise hearted, whom I have filled with a spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to sanctify him that he shall serve Me.”

Rabbi Bloch explained: The priestly garments had profound spiritual and mystical symbolism. They were to give the priests a special sanctity and relationship to the Almighty…. It was not necessary… that they be beautiful in the eyes of man. But human nature demands that something which has great importance should also be externally beautiful. People’s feelings toward things are greatly influenced by external appearances. Therefore it was necessary that the priestly garments be beautiful…. Moshe was told not to mention this to the wise men who would make the garments. They were just told to make the garments to sanctify and serve the Almighty. Those who do the work should have an elevated mental attitude.

Though it is necessary to do some things for physical beauty, the main focus… should be on sanctity and spirituality. (Shiurai Daas, Vol. 3, Essay 5)

And so, it seems that Am Yisrael, with the Kohen attired in his Bigdei Kehunah as a paradigm, are to be viewed by all as models of external and internal purity — of speech, action and intent and special relationship with the Almighty. Does the purity of our Observance reach that level? And if we are to truly emulate the Kohen in his service of Hashem, and emulate the ways of Hashem, it seems to this author that we l’chatchila must, in all ways, answer to a higher standard, a higher calling, with not a hint, or a sniff of anything wrong or off-color in our words, actions and intentions — particularly toward our own brethren.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.