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The parasha opens with:
You (Moses) shall command the Israelites to bring to you pure, pressed oil, so that the lamp [in the tabernacle] may burn continuously… (27:20).
The Israelites had already been commanded to bring "oil for the lamp" (25:6), together with many other raw materials for the Tabernacle and its service. The parasha goes out of its way to repeat with an order to Moses: "You command the Israelites to bring pure pressed oil". The directive beforehand "from each person who wishes to give" (25:2) seems to be insufficient in the case of the oil, for it is now underlined with emphasis on Moses "commanding the Israelites" rather than merely "requesting from the generous".
This may be explained in the following way. The oil is something very specific to the Israelites, and G-d's expectation of the Israelites within the Creation. Humanity received the Seven Noachite Laws (partly based on the rabbinical exegesis of Gen. 9:4-7). By contrast, the Israelites are additionally are bound by the 613 mitzvot. These requirements by their very nature require the Israelites to live within their own communities, and to strive for levels of spiritual purity in order to fulfill their destiny within the framework of the mitzvot.
This message may be the symbolism of the commandment about the oil for the Tabernacle. The oil represents the Israelites' separation - oil floats as a separate entity on top of water, in the spirit of "I am the Lord your G-d who separated you from all nations" (Lev. 20:24). The oil must be pure - in the spirit of David's prayer after his sin with Bathsheba: "Create in me a pure heart, and renew in me a new spirit" (Psalms 51:12). And keeping the 613 mitzot can be demanding and at times difficult: hinted at the requirement of the oil being "pressed": Rashi brings the tradition that this oil was the purest of the pure, the olive oil going through seven stages of refinement. And the Israelites are required to follow the Torah at all times, not just when they feel lit it - represented by "so that the lamp may burn continuously"…
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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