“Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, for glory and splendor.” (Exodus 28:2)
Every verse in the Torah is sacred, but some verses pack more punch than others. Parashat T’zaveh opens with, “V’ata t’tzaveh, Now you shall command the children of Israel to take for you pure olive oil, katit lamaor, beaten for illumination, l’haalot ner tamid, to raise up a lamp, continually.” (Ex. 27:20) There’s a lot to unpack.
Preparing the oil is one of only three instances in the construction of the mishkan, or Tabernacle, when Moses is commanded to perform the act himself, rather than to relay the instructions to someone else. However, Moses can’t do it alone. He must rely upon the entire community to accomplish this task. In Jewish thought, sanctity is a communal mission.
Rabbi Mark Borovitz (founding rabbi and Director of the Elaine Breslow Institute) sees the oil from beaten olives (rather than from crushed fragments) as a metaphor for the purity within each person. The task is to keep the olive pulp from clogging our spiritual veins and arteries.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888; a German rabbi considered the father of modern Orthodox Judaism) sees light as a metaphor for Torah. He interprets l’haalot, to raise up, to indicate teachers must empower students to continually raise their own interpretations, rather than merely preserve previous insights. This keeps the Torah eternal.
Chizkuni (~1220 -~1260; French Rabbi and commentator) claims the ner tamid of the menorah isn’t for God, it’s there to illuminate the pathway to sanctity for the Israelites.
Because T’tzaveh begins with v’ata, in the singular, it signals the responsibility of each individual to access their individual purity to be a guiding light for others.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom
because the verse begins v’ata, and you, in the singular, each of these interpretations applies to the individual.
(The two others are selecting the wise artisans to craft the mishkan, or tabernacle, and creating the priestly garments.)