Thursday, February 21, 2013

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

The famous joke of Golda Meir that the Jewish people had managed, after forty years of wandering, to end up in the only country in the Middle East with no oil, was only partially correct. Although the Holy Land has not produced the stuff that brings in the gold, it has historically been a rich source of olive oil. The Talmud relates how a merchant from the town of Lydia in Asia Minor once traveled to Gush Chalav in the Galilee to buy olive oil. He spent a million silver coins on the oil and borrowed every camel and mule in the region to transport it home!

Olive oil features in our weekly portion too - Tetza've (Shmos [Exodus] 27:20-30:10). In the middle of the commandments regarding the construction of the Tabernacle and the making of priestly clothes, G‑d instructs Moses about the production of pure olive oil for use in the Menorah.

In Temple times, the oil was doubly graded. The first grade referred to the quality of the olive from which the oil was produced—based on the olive's position on the tree: high (ripest), middle or bottom. The oil itself was then graded according to its purity; the first drop squeezed, other oil extracted by pressing the olives, and the oil that came from crushing the olives.

Naturally, one would expect that the two rankings worked together—the first drop of oil from an olive at the bottom of a tree would not be as good as oil produced from a pressed olive from the top of the tree. The Talmud, however, says this is not the case: no matter where the olive came from, for practical purposes, its gradation was based only on how the oil was extracted. A first drop from a bottom olive could be used for the Menorah, a drop from a crushed top olive could not.

The lesson is clear. As the Chassidic Rebbe Reb Zushe of Anipoli once remarked, he did not worry that when he passed away and went before the Heavenly Tribunal they would ask him why he was not as great as Moses. He was worried, however, what he would reply when they asked him why he was not as great as Zushe could have been. Why had he not achieved his full potential?

It is irrelevant where on the tree we feel we may come from, what is important is that we give our best – our first drops – to be a Menorah for G‑d with the flame of Mitzvot and light of Torah.

(Excerpts from Chabad.org - from Rabbi Eli Pink)

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

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