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Thursday
Feb102011

CHANUKAH IN THE MONTH OF ADAR

This week’s parsha of Tetzaveh begins with the words: “And you shall command the children of Israel that they should bring to you clear olive oil, crushed for lighting, to ignite the lamp continually.”

This commandment comes on the heels of the preceding parsha which discussed the various contributions of the Jewish people for the construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary in the desert and the vessels within it: the Ark, Table, Altar, and Menorah.

However there is a discrepancy in these two appeals for contributions:

In last week’s parsha the Torah stated: “Take My offering from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity.” The Zohar states that when the Torah states “From every person whose heart inspires him…” it includes even the Eirev rav (the mixture of a multitude of nations—the riff-raff—that were inspired, for ulterior motives, to join the Jewish people at the time of the Exodus, having witnessed the incredible miracles).

However, commentators point out, that in contrast to last week’s parsha this week’s parsha specifies that the contribution of the olive oil must come from “the children of Israel.” Absent is the statement that it should come from every person who is inspired to contribute as it did with regard to the Mishkan and all of its vessels. Why is the olive oil different?

To answer this question we must first preface the answer to a second question: Why did the people have to bring the olive oil to Moses? After all, Moses was not the one designated to do the lighting of the Menorah in the Mishkan. They should have been required to bring it to Aaron who was charged with this responsibility as mentioned explicitly in this parsha.

The answer to this question is that lighting the Menorah is more than a ritual. This act was much more than a means to generate greater spiritual light to the world. It was fundamentally about lighting up the souls of the Jewish people. To ensure that the light would be untainted by any outside influence it had to be pure olive oil, not just in the chemical sense of purity. To ensure that the olive oil—with which the soul/flame of every Jew would be kindled—was pure, it had to be brought to Moses. Only Moses’ pure and transparent soul had the capacity to guarantee that the oil would be pure in the spiritual and ultimate sense of the word.

Thus, Moses could not have asked the Eirev rav to contribute the olive oil, because Moses knew of their lack of sincerity. He also knew that they were the instigators of the golden calf’s construction (which according to many opinions preceded the commandment to contribute to the Mishkan). Moses could not afford to allow their participation in the donation of the olive oil because that would have sullied its pristine purity.

Now a question can be raised in the opposite direction. Why did Moses take their donations for the Mishkan? If their involvement would taint the purity of the oil, then it would also have compromised the integrity of the Mishkan.

To answer this question we must try to understand the difference between the respective objectives of the Mishkan with its vessels on the one hand and the olive oil on the other hand.

The Mishkan was a physical structure designed to be the instrument through which G-d chose to reveal His presence in our world. The fact that our physical world is not a pure and holy place is not a contradiction to the objective of the Mishkan. On the contrary, the very purpose of the Mishkan was precisely to bring holiness into the parameters of the physical world with all of its deficiencies. One does not need to make the spiritual realms holy; the purpose of building the Mishkan—and the subsequent Beit HaMikdash that was built in Jerusalem—was to make the physical and material world holy.

The Mishkan was actually the prototype of G-d’s image and vision for our world. G-d’s objective in creating the world is to acquire a “dwelling place” for Himself in the lowliest aspects of existence, in our material, and often spiritually resistant, world. The lowliness of the world is not a negation of G-d’s plan. On the contrary, it is an affirmation of it. Transforming the lowliest aspects of existence into a Sanctuary for G-d is indeed what life is all about, our very raison d’etre.

Thus when G-d asked for contributions for the construction of the Mishkan, the Eirav rav’s tainted past would not only not detract from the mission statement of the Mishkan; it would validate it. They were precisely the type of people for whom the Mishkan was most suited. And if one can lift up the people on the bottom rung of the spiritual ladder, it can surely uplift everyone else. The only caveat was that they ought not contribute to the Mishkan with negative feelings; they had to do it with an “inspired heart.” The fact that they had “skeletons in their closet” was in no way an impediment to their role in contributing to the Mishkan.

When, however, the oil had to be prepared to light up the souls of the Jewish people that was an entirely different story. It had to be the purist olive oil in every sense of the word. The physical purity that was required was but a physical manifestation of its spiritual purity. The soul needs to be nurtured and its flame ignited in ways that do not eclipse its light or compromise its brightness, for such defects would contradict the very idea of what a soul is all about. The Eirav rav’s contribution of the oil—even with their best intentions—would have undermined the very character of the lighting of the souls of the Jewish people as exemplified through the Menorah with the purist of olive oil.

Once the Menorah was lit with the purist olive oil—under the direction and filter of Moses—it would ignite the spark of the souls of the Jewish people and, once that light is shining brightly, it will eventually also reach and ignite the souls of the Eirav rav.

This distinction will also shed light (pun intended) on a Chanukah question. We know that the miracle of Chanukah was the discovery of an uncontaminated cruse of oil. And instead of lasting one night the oil lasted for eight. This miracle ensured that they would not have to light the Menorah with tainted olive oil, although under those circumstances, should there have been no other choice, such tainted oil would have been permitted.

The question has been raised concerning the oil that is needed for the various flour offerings that were brought in the Temple. Why were they able to use the contaminated oil for the offerings, but not for the menorah? Why was there no need for a miracle to ensure that the offerings would also be brought with pure olive oil?

We can now understand that when it comes to offering of ourselves to G-d, He does not mind that it is brought from our lowest aspects. Indeed, sometimes the lower the offering the more G-d’s objective of making a Sanctuary for Himself in the lowest of realms is realized. Not so when lighting the Menorah which represents the souls of all the Jewish people. For that purpose G-d performed the great miracle of Chanukah so that the Jewish souls would be capable of revealing their purist state.

The lesson for us is that we—as we stand on the threshold of the final redemption through Moshiach—are also charged with a two pronged mission:

On the one hand, as we prepare to enter into the world of Redemption it is our responsibility to reach out to every Jew no matter how far they—or we ourselves—have strayed from the Torah. The worshippers of the contemporary version of the golden calf are just as integral to the unfolding process of the world proceeding from the state of exile to the state of Redemption as are the most devout and righteous. The universal Sanctuary that will be our world in the days of Moshiach is being built right now with the efforts of every single mitzvah of every single Jew no matter how far he or she may be from the state of purity. Moreover, the ultimate Mishkan needs those “lowly” contributions even more than those of the more lofty souls. G-d desires to dwell especially within the lowest of realms.

However, as we prepare our souls for the coming of Moshiach at which time we will see G-d’s glory without any screen or filter, it is our task to come before Him with a pure soul. By taking our “olive oil” and bringing it to Moshiach, the Moses of our generation, by following in his pure and holy ways that are untainted by the exile mindset, we are guaranteed that our souls will indeed be purified. And when we will stand before G-d in the third Temple we will not be embarrassed because at that time our souls will radiate the purest of light.

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