This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Tetzaveh (5762)
This week's section begins with G-d telling Moses to command (Tetzave) the Jewish people to bring him (Moses) olive oil "crushed for illumination".
This seemingly casual idea is really very potent.
Usually G-d commands, and Moses just conveys it to the people. Why does G-d here tell MOSES to do the commanding?
Secondly; why should the people bring the oil to MOSES? Ahron is the one who needs it to light the Menora!
Thirdly; What does the Torah accomplish by telling us that they must be crushed? The only way to get olive oil is by crushing olives!
And what does "Crushed for illumination" mean?
There are many explanations for all this, but here are two stories to help us understand one of them.
About 300 years ago in the days of the Baal Shem Tov, Judaism was in crises. Only a short time earlier, Polish and Russian Jewry suffered terribly. First from the barbaric armies of Bogdan Chmelnitzki, and then from a false Messiah called Shabbtai Tzvi. Now myriads of young Jews were opting out for new philosophies and beliefs, and nothing seemed to be able to stop them.
The only ones really keeping the faith, were either the accomplished scholars, or the simple unlettered folk. The only connection between these two groups was professional "preachers" or "Maggidim" as they were called.
Usually the Maggidim were Talmudic scholars and excellent orators. They would arrive at a Jewish town a day or two before the Sabbath, and ask the town Rabbi for permission to speak in the Synagogue. Just before the reading of the Torah they would rise to the podium and begin speaking. Their lecture usually began with something about the Torah section, but almost inevitably it ended with an overwhelming fire-and-brimstone speech about the evils of sin.
Now, it once occurred that one Shabbat one such Maggid was at the peak of such a sermon. The congregation was completely under his control as he explained in vivid details the tribulations of Hell, and the futility of even imagining that it is possible to hide from the wrath of the L-rd.
He was almost whispering as he leaned forward, eyes burning, slowly and deliberately emphasizing each word. The people sat wide-eyed, paralyzed in open-mouthed fear from his awesome descriptions, and the only thing that broke the terrible silence was the moans and weeping from the women's section.
He raised his voice ominously, with fists clenched and arms outstretched in the middle making some terrifying point when suddenly a man stood up in the back of the Synagogue and yelled, "STOP! STOP THIS NOW!"
The spell had been broken. Everyone turned to the stranger. The man spoke with a certainly, and his eyes had unusual warmth and depth.
"Why do you frighten these pure, good-hearted people!? Don't you realize how precious their simple good deeds and pure intentions are to G-d? Why do you frighten them?!" And he proceeded to bring stories and proofs for his words.
That man was the Baal Shem Tov, and this was the beginning of a new positive approach to Judaism called "Chassidut".
Here is a second story:
The Fourth Rebbe of Lubavitch was the M’HaRaSh (short for "Our teacher and master Rav Shmuel") lived a very short life. He passed away at the age of 49. In many ways, of all the Chabad Rebbes, he was the most similar to the founder of Chassidut, the Baal Shem Tov.
There is a well known story that the M’HaRaSh once took four devoted followers and traveled to Paris.
It was very unusual at that time for any religious person, and it goes without saying a Rebbe, to travel to this decadent city. But like his predecessor the "Baal Shem Tov", he had a holy purpose in everything he did, and was careful not to divulge it to anyone.
Upon arrival, he ordered the driver to travel to a certain exclusive hotel and told his Chassidim to take the most expensive room in the place. The prices were astronomic, but they did as he said and secured a royal suite on the first floor.
They were shown to their room, and after a few moments the Rebbe announced that he was going into the hotel casino (bar and gambling parlor).
They left the suite, went to the casino and watched as the Rebbe took a seat at a table in the corner and watched the crowd for several minutes.
Laughter and clinking of glasses rang out in the smoke filled room, and as out of place as he must have looked no one even paid attention to him, they were too involved in their gambling and frivolity.
Suddenly the Rebbe stood and walked over to a foppishly dressed young man standing at the roulette table. The man was watching the game, and occasionally sipping wine from a wineglass he gracefully held in his hand.
The Rebbe tapped him on the shoulder, and when the young man turned he looked him in the eyes and said quietly,
"Young man, Gentile wine makes the heart insensitive."
The young man just stared at the Rebbe for a few moments, turned back to the roulette table as though nothing happened, and the Rebbe returned to his seat. But after a few minutes he returned to the man once again tapped him on the shoulder and said,
"Young man! Be a Jew!"
Then the Rebbe turned and left the room, with his entourage following close after.
After several minutes the young man asked one of the waiters if he knew where he could find that strange Rabbi’s room, and being that it was such an expensive room the waiter immediately knew. It was very near to the casino, so the young man was able to easily locate it.
They spoke for over an hour, and shortly after that conversation the man completely changed his way of life and became a Chassid of the Rebbe
That answers our questions. The Jewish people are likened to olives, and the only way they produce oil is by squeezing or even "crushing" them.
But there are different types of crushing. There is crushing that comes from the outside, like the "preacher" in our first story, and crushing that comes from the "inside", like the Rebbe in the second.
The former is very efficient; people are afraid of punishment and do what they are told. But the problem with such an approach is that it lacks JOY and often permanence.
But "crushing" from the "inside" is totally different. It comes from sensing how good one is, and how infinitely much better one CAN be. This is the job of a Rebbe; to inspire such self-squeezing. Then the results are joy and lasting connection to HaShem.
A good example of this is what it says in the Talmud, that the Jews never really fulfilled the Torah from the day it was given at Mount Sinai, until the miracle of Purim, almost one thousand years later!
The reason is, that at Sinai G-d FORCED them to receive the Torah. That is why only forty days later they actually worshiped idolatry...The Golden Calf.
But on Purim they had a choice, if they chose to declare that they weren't Jews they could have escaped the decree "To destroy etc. all the JEWS" - but they didn't!
They chose to "squeeze" themselves. Therefore they had the joy and power to deny anything against G-d's will. (That is the reason they were called Y'hudim "Jews" - because they completely surrendered to HaShem) and that is why Purim is such a JOYOUS holiday.
And this was the work of Moses, Mordechai, the Baal Shem Tov, and all the Rebbes after them, ESPECIALLY the last Lubavitcher Rebbe; to inspire the Jews of their generation to "crush" themselves and come closer to their true, joyous, Jewish identity.
Now we can answer our above questions.
Moses is here doing the commanding because, only through Moses can the people realize how good they really are, and how much better they can be; he is G-d's sole representative in this world.
And therefore the oil must be taken to him, because it is thanks to him that Jews are inspired to squeeze it out. (And, as the Rebbe pointed out in his last discourse, this oil raises Moses as well).
Finally, that is what "Crushed for the ILLUMINATOR" means. Namely, that when a Jew "squeezes and even crushes HIMSELF it makes light and joy from the "illuminator" i.e. from the very ESSENCE and SOURCE of his soul.
May we all be connected to the Rebbe by learning his teachings and squeeze ourselves to bring out the true light of....
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