Crushed to Become a Luminary
February 11, 2022
By Rus Devorah Wallen

I’m Rus Devorah Wallen, and I’d like to share my T for 2, my Torah thought for two minutes, more or less.

This week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, continues describing the details of the Mishkon – the traveling sanctuary that the Jewish people carried in the desert. The first verse states, “V’atah Tetzaveh es B’nei Yisroel – And you shall command the Jewish People – saying, they should take for you pure olive oil, crushed to illuminate, for an everlasting light.”

The word Tetzaveh has the same root as the word mitzvah meaning, “command.” A frequent phrase goes something like, “And G-d told Moshe saying, tell the Jewish People, such and such.  Here, G-d is giving Moshe, himself the authority to command the Jewish people. From this we learn a fascinating spiritual and halachic concept. If the sender sends an authentically sincere emissary, the emissary is given the strength and authority of the Sender. God is endowing Moshe, our “Raya Mehemna – faithful shepherd,” the empowerment to give us the commandment. A lesson for us in our times is that when we take on a project honorably, with great sincerity, we can trust that we will be directly encouraged and empowered by God, Himself.

Additionally, the root of the word Tetzaveh, is translated in Aramaic as Tzavso.  In Hebrew “Tzavso” would translate into Hebrew as, “chibur” meaning connection or attachment, related to the word, “chaver or friend!” That is, someone with whom we are connected.  So, accordingly each time a person does a Mitzvah, he or she connects with Hashem. This is like performing an act for a beloved person. We do their will and become connected with them through the act. Our verse implies that Hashem is connecting Moshe Rabbeinu with the Jewish people through the commandment of making pure olive oil for the menorah. Another interesting point in this phrase is that it says, “crushed to illuminate.” At first glance it should have used the verb, “l’hair” – which means “to illuminate.”  However, the word that is used, “l’ma’or means to become a luminary,” such as the sun, or the moon, or a flame.  A light source, a generator of illumination – not just the rays that emanate from it. So, according to the literal and figurative translations, this means that the crushing itself causes one to become full of light. Thus, in a discourse the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Shneerson, connects the dots regarding the phrase, “You should command the children of Israel.” He says, Hashem is telling Moshe to bind and connect himself the Jewish people. In performing this, he becomes a more powerful leader. Not just a good one, but one who is a true lighthouse, illuminating our path for more than 100 generations to come.  When our leaders are pressed like the olive is pressed, being put in challenging positions of authentic leadership, G-d empowers them to become the best light, an actual source of light and inspiration, stronger and more powerful than prior.

Tetzaveh coincides with the beginning of the joyous month of Adar. Since this is a leap year, there are two of these precious months. That means that we have 60 days of potential to bring light and joy into our lives and to those around us. At the time of the original Purim story (which is celebrated in the second month of Adar), our leader, Mordechai, was likened to Moshe in his time. When Mordechai was challenged to bow down to Haman, not only did he not comply, but he and Esther made supreme sacrifices becoming a source of light and strength for the Jewish people at that time.  When such powerful and sincere efforts of sacrifice are made during times of crushing adversity such as the Purim story, they do not go unheeded by Hashem.  The exertion alone brings miraculous results including great light. As it says at the end of the Purim story – “LaYehudim hayso ora v’simcha v’sasson v’ikar – for the Jews there was light, and joy, and gladness, and honor.”  In this series we have learned the central kabbalistic concept of “Yerida zu l’tzoreich Aliyah – this descent is for an ascent of a much higher order.” Another source in the Mishnah Pirkei Avos – Ethics of the Fathers, “L’fum tz’ara agra – Commensurate with the painstaking effort is the reward.” Or as it’s said in the American vernacular, “No pain, no gain.” May we be able to come through the challenges we face personally or collectively, with greater empowerment, moving through them triumphantly and with great light and joy.

Rus Devorah Wallen is an accomplished musician, performer, social worker, psychotherapist, and educator.

Crushed to Become a Luminary - Jewish thought of the week graphic