The Fuel of FaithFebruary 3, 2014 - 5:00 am
Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning.—Exodus 27:20
The Torah portion for this week is Tetzaveh, which means “command” or “connect,” from Exodus 27:20–30:10, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 43:10–27.
This week’s Torah portion begins with a commandment to light the menorah, the lampstand in the Tabernacle. Unlike today’s menorahs which are used on Hanukkah to commemorate the eight nights that the Temple menorah stayed lit with only a small amount of olive oil, the original menorah had six branches on either side and one in the middle for a total of seven lights. These flames had to be kept burning both day and night because the menorah lights were not about physical light – they were a symbol of spiritual light. Spiritual light from the menorah was to spread throughout the world.
The Sages pick up on Scripture’s specific instructions to use olive oil for the menorah flames and connect it to a verse from Jeremiah: “The LORD called you a thriving olive tree with fruit beautiful in form” (Jeremiah 11:16). They ask: Why did the prophet compare Israel specifically to olives? There are many other comparisons of Israel throughout Scriptures to other fruits – pomegranates, dates, and figs to name a few. Why olives?
The Sages explain that olives are different than any other fruit. What would destroy most fruit only makes olives better.
With most fruit, the more it is beaten and battered, the less desirable it becomes. However, with olives, the more they are crushed and ground, the more valuable they become. As an olive is crushed, it produces olive oil. And as we see from this week’s reading, olive oil has the power to illuminate the entire world.
This is why Jeremiah chose to compare Israel to olives — because of Israel’s remarkable ability to become better through adversity. The more we are pressed and pressured, the greater we become. Just as an olive produces oil when it is crushed, Israel produces a valuable substance as well — faith.
Our faith in God and the deep connection to Him that results from going through adversity has the power to light up the dark places. It fuels the world and brings the light of God to all the nations.
As we read about the lights of the menorah this week, let’s resolve to become lights ourselves. For every bump and bruise that we acquire on our journey through life, let us shine ever brighter. Let us bring light to the dark places of the world as we lead by example. When we exhibit faith in dark times and unwavering trust in the Lord, we will serve as beacons of light to all who sit in darkness. We will be living examples of Micah 7:8: “Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.”