Parashat Tetzaveh // “You Will Instruct”

- כ ה ת -

What is the basis for divine ethics?

It is human nature to constantly want to “cast our light on God” 

“And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burnalways. In the tabernacle of the congregation without the vail, which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before the LORD: it shall be a statute for ever unto their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel” Exodus 27:20 – 21

  • The menorah is to be lit using only the first drops of oil extracted from each olive pressed for that purpose The menorah is a physical expression of the divine light filling the world. This oil is important because it is used for lighting the menorah, which should always remain lit: “The Holy One, blessed be He, said: ‘The lamps that Aaron lights are more precious to Me than the luminaries that I placed in heaven'” (Midrash Tanhuma, Tetzaveh 2). The light of the menorah is imbued with the divine presence and cast on all of mankind. While God does not need this light, we as human beings want to give him something that is oursto “cast our light” on Him. 
  • The light that is fueled by olive oil can only be achieved by pressing olives. This is analogous to our very own lives, which are full of challenges and pressure. Life trials often come along with stress and suffering – but these things make us stronger. This is akin to the oil used for the menorah: by pressing the olives, the source of pure and spiritual light is extracted. When facing distress and pressure, we must not fall into despair – but rather try to draw the best out of hardship.

The materials of the priestly garments

“And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons. And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty. And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom” Exodus 28:1 – 3

  • Moses and Aaron come from the same family – yet each has a different leadership role. Moses is a prophet and ethnarch, whereas Aaron is a priest and spiritual mentor. These brothers complement each other and never contest the other’s position. Their exemplary behavior teaches us about how crucial harmony is for the functioning of our families and communities. Moses is the one who prepares the garments to cover his brother’s body and soul, while Aaron is the one who lights the menorah. 

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “You Will Instruct”

  • The light of the Tabernacle is distributed across different levels – at some of which negativity cannot be tolerated because the light there shines purely and intensely. Similarly, we must always try to avoid negativity and strengthen all that is positive and pure.
  • To achieve purity, we must engage in collective work, connect to the light, and reach out to our fellow human beings. We need to see the good in others and be part of communities founded on togetherness and a love of truth. In this way, our hearts will pour out light – just as fine oil oozes from the olive.
  • The menorah is a physical expression of the divine light filling the world. The light emitted from the menorah radiates the divine inspiration of the shechina.
  • Oil extraction processes resemble our life journeys, which are rife with tests, crises, and suffering. Nevertheless, the end result is pure, clear light.
  • The service of the Tabernacle is confined to the priests and Levites, who cooperate through joint actions and experiences. These values – unity and mutual responsibility – are the basis for the continuation of the Jewish people. 

Blessings are multiplied when shared; by sharing, we truly change ourselves and the world for the better.