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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Tetzave


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The Torah ordains that the olive oil used to light the eternal menorah -
candelabra - must be of the purest and best available. There is obvious logic to this
requirement. Impure oil will cause the flames to stutter and flicker.
Impure oil also may exude an unpleasant odor and make the task of the
daily cleaning of the oil lamps difficult and inefficient. Yet I feel that
the basic underlying reason for this requirement of purity of the oil lies
in the value that the Torah advances in the performance of all positive
things in life - the necessity to do things correctly, enthusiastically and
with exactitude.

In halachic parlance this is called kavanah - the intent to perform the commandment
and deed properly and in the best possible way. That
is the story of the pure container of oil that is the core of the miraculous
story of Chanuka. The Hasmoneans could have used regular, even impure oil
and still not have violated any strong halachic stricture. Yet the idea of
kavanah, of doing the matter in the best way possible, introduces an element
of special dedication and holiness into what otherwise would be an event of
rote and habit This is what drives the spirit of holiness and eternity that
accompanies the performance of mitzvoth.

So the requirement of the Torah for
the purest possible oil to fuel the holy and eternal menorah - candelabra - is
readily understandable when the concept of kavanah is factored into the
value system of the Torah.

The light of the menorah has never been dimmed over the long history of the
Jewish people. Though the menorah itself has long ago disappeared from the
view of the Jewish public - it was no longer present even in Second Temple
times - the idea of its.light and influence has continued to be present in
Jewish life. The flame is not a tangible item - it is in reality an item of
spirit more than of substance.

It provides light and warmth and
psychological support in very difficult times and circumstances. Yet its
influence and support is somehow directly connected to.the invested
into actually kindling it. That is the import of the words of the rabbis in
Avot that according to the effort invested so is the accomplishment and

All things spiritual are dependent upon the effort invested in
creating that sense of spirit. The purer the oil, the brighter and firmer
the flame. This simple yet profound message forms the heart of this week's
parsha. It also forms the heart of all values and commandments that the
Torah ordains for us.

The parsha of Tetave speaks to all of us in a direct
and personal fashion. It encompasses all of the goals of Judaism and is thus
in itself the light of spirituality that lights our souls and lives.

Shabat shalom

Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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