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   by Jacob Solomon

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You (Moses) command the Israelites that they shall take for Me (G-d) pure, pressed olive oil for illumination, to kindle the lamp continually… In the Tent of Meeting, outside the partition near the Tablets, Aaron and his sons shall arrange then from evening until morning… as an eternal decree for generations… (27:20-21).

The parasha opens with a bridge joining the building of the Tabernacle, and the detailed instructions of the garments and conduct of the priests. Logically, oil for the menorah would be within last week's parasha, which details the menorah and states: '… shall kindle its lamps and give light…' (25:37). Instead, the Torah returns to the menorah just before introducing the Tabernacle (and by inference, the future Temple's) personnel. And it also stresses the involvement of Moses and the Israelites in making it possible for 'pure, pressed olive oil' to be regularly available for that purpose.

The nature of the 'olive oil lights' on the 'bridge between the holy Tabernacle and its personnel' may be explained as an eternal lesson for generations as well as an 'eternal decree for generations'. For olive oil light by nature is pure, refined - all the more so with the Torah's insistence (following Rashi) that the oil is of the very highest possible quality. Its associations are deeply positive: quiet, dignified, refined, yet assertive in a non-overbearing way. It is akin to the 'still small voice' (Kings I 19:12) with which G-d communicated to Elijah.

The eternal status of that message is to be uppermost in the minds of the spiritual leaders of our people. Our values are to create light out of darkness, not darkness out of light. It is shown by the involvement of not only Moses, the leader, but 'the Israelites' at large in the creation and maintaining that light 'as an eternal decree for generations'. That light is not spread by perverting the Torah as a ladder to selfish self-aggrandizement and sanctimonious self-mutilation which understandably has blinded many to its beautiful eternal teachings. It is spread by the conduct of those people in full harmony with mitzvot bein adam le-chaveiro (between man and man) as well as bein adam la-makom (between man and G-d).

However, the light of the Tabernacle is presented modestly: not as a huge fire illuminating a huge area, but well inside the Tabernacle. Not in the inaccessible Holy of Holies, but 'outside the partition' - in the area that may only be viewed when in a state of ritual purity - symbolizing that our teachings, though accessible, may only be savored and internalized by effort on behalf of the people themselves…

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

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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