This week we read Parshas Tetzaveh. This portion tells of many things concerning the Kohanim and the Mishkan; however, it begins by telling us of the Mitzvah of lighting the Menorah every day in the Mishkan (and later in the Bais Hamikdosh). The Parshah begins with the words, “And you (Moshe) shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you (Moshe) pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the lamps continually.” Rashi cites the word “pure” and explains that it means “without sediment.”
We need to understand what Rashi is adding to our understanding of this verse. Rashi teaches the beginning student how to understand every word of the Torah. The Hebrew word, which the Torah uses for pure, “זך – Zach,” always means just that, free of any extraneous items, meaning pure and unadulterated. The beginning student knows this. Rashi does not seem to be adding anything that we do not already know!
The explanation is that Rashi is telling us how the verse is to be read. The Torah’s words “pure olive oil” could also be translated “oil from pure olives.” Rashi is letting us know that the Torah is not commanding us regarding the purity of the olives, meaning that they must be clean and good looking. Instead, it is telling us that the oil must be free of sediment, meaning pure olive oil.
How does Rashi know the correct reading of the verse? At the time that the Jews received this command, they were in the wilderness. There were no olive trees from which to select the best quality olives. However, they did have olive oil, which they had brought from Egypt. Hence, they were commanded to use only the very best quality oil with which to light the Menorah.
Hashem did not command us to erect a Menorah in the Mishkan/Mikdash to serve as a source of light in the place where the Kohen lit it. Rather, they made the Menorah illuminate the entire world. This is much the same as our Mitzvah performance. Our Mitzvos draw down G-dliness, illuminating the world. Therefore, while doing a Mitzvah, we must use only the very best we have. This includes both the best, purest items that we have and our greatest strengths.
Wishing one and all a good Shabbos!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn
Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 11, Page 127
DEDICATED IN HONOR OF
the Lubavitcher Rebbe
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כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש
. Our Parshah, Shemos 27:20.