Pure Oil by Marc Poleyeff


In Parashat Tetzaveh, the Torah deals with different laws regarding the Kohanim. The first Pasuk in the Parasha reads (Shemot 27:20), “VeAta Tetzaveh Et Bnei Yisrael VeYikchu Eilecha Shemen Zayit Zach Katit LaMaor LeHaalot Neir Tamid,” “And you shall command Bnei Yisrael that they shall take for you clear olive oil, crushed, for illumination, to light a lamp continually.”  Rashi states that the only oil suitable for the Menorah was pressed olives; however, for Menachot (meal-offerings), even the oil of crushed olives was acceptable. The process of crushing olives leaves sediment that has to be removed in order to create pure oil. For the Menorah, only oil that never had sediment was allowed to be used.

The Menorah represents the scholars who are imbued with the wisdom of Torah. Just like the oil used for the Menorah must never contain sediment, so too the leaders of Am Yisrael must be individuals whose actions are pure and filled with good intentions. If a leader ever committed a crime or acted questionably, even though he may be cleared of charges, the people may still judge the individual by his inappropriate actions rather than his eventual rectification. Thus, leaders must be careful to always act appropriately and never commit a questionable act.

What is the significance of the word “Eilecha,” “For you” in the Pasuk; why was this added? The Ibn Ezra explains that when the Menorah was lit, Moshe Rabbeinu benefited more than anyone else. The Mechilta tells us that Hashem spoke openly to Moshe only during the daytime. The Ibn Ezra believes that this comment of the Mechilta refers to the period before the construction of the Mishkan. After the Mishkan was built, and the Menorah was lit on a nightly basis, Hashem also spoke to Moshe at night. Since the lighting of the Menorah in effect allowed Moshe to speak to Hashem at night too, the bringing of the Shemen Zayit Zach was, in one respect, “for you.”

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