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   by Jacob Solomon

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G-d said to Moses: 'Command the Israelites that they bring clear olive oil, pressed for lighting, so that it may burn (in the Tabernacle) continually… He (the high priest) shall arrange the lights on the pure [gold] candelabrum…' (24:1-4).

As a child, I imagined that the Torah's putting olive oil after Sukkot was a hint that the Chanukah Menora should use high quality olive oil - showing a juvenile lack of historical understanding. However, concentrating on the Menora's small, beautifully refined, olive-oil flame brings to mind: 'the soul of Man is the candle of G-d' (Prov. 20:27). It is quiet, inexplicably stunning, and wakens the deepest emotions in the spiritually sensitive.

This idea is reflected in G-d's teaching to Elijah on Mount Horeb, following Jezebel's enraged vengeful pursuit following his execution of the priests of Baal:

'G-d is not in the [powerful] wind. G-d is not in the earthquake. G-d is not in the [great] fire. But after the fire, there will be a still, small voice' (Kings I 19:11-12).

The silently burning refined oil lamp is an expression of the still small voice. It is the voice of one's conscience. It gives a sense of what one should truly aspire to in this life. It connects the spiritually responsive with the Almighty - the Infinite - even to the extent that indeed, it is the 'candle of G-d' that stirs 'the soul of Man'.

The Torah commands the kindling of the Menora (golden candelabrum) in the Tabernacle in three different places:

(a) After the details of the construction of the Tabernacle, including the outer courtyard (Ex. 7:20-21).

(b) After the details of the Sabbath and Festivals - in this Parasha.

(c) After the personal offerings of the heads of the tribes as the initiation ceremony of the Tabernacle altar (Num. 8:1-4).

The outer courtyard of the Tabernacle (and the Temple) was put together to accommodate crowds of people assembled for a holy common purpose. So were the Festivals - they stress fellowship - as exemplified by Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, when the Israelites communally worship at the Temple. And the huge Temple donations from heads of the tribes, presented with due ceremony, would have created due positive impressions on the masses of the Israelites.

These were all to the good. The Tabernacle (and Temple), the observance of Sabbaths and Festivals, and donations to worthy causes are products of Torah tradition. But their powerhouses - their deepest essences, lie in the people, individual by individual. It is the 'still, small voice' of what he believes is right, and what track he should follow in life.

It was the 'still small voice' that led to Elijah to his mission - to act behind the scenes; to slowly, but surely direct the Northern Kingdom away from idolatry. And it is on us to take time off now and again from our great endeavors, however great they are (represented by the Temple, Sabbaths and Festivals, and contributions to worthy causes), and concentrate on the 'pure oil light' - the 'still, small, voice' that leads us to tune into the Infinite, inspiring us to make the best of ourselves in every sense, with a due sense of direction and proportion.

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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