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Parashat T’tzaveh (Exodus 27:30-30:10)

“And there I will meet with the Israelites, and it shall be sanctified by My Presence.” (Exodus 29:43)

Parashat T’tzaveh is the only parasha, or portion, in the Torah that does not include Moses’ name (since his introduction in Exodus 2). Moses’ presence is felt, though, because T’tzaveh opens with three commands directed specifically to him (rather than for him to relay to the Israelite people). These include collecting pure olive oil for the menorah, the candelabrum (Ex. 27:20); to initiate Aaron and his sons into the priesthood (Ex. 28:1), and; to instruct the artists in creating the priestly raiment (Ex. 28:3).

Rabbi Avraham Hayyim of Zloczow (1750-1816; early Chassidic leader) connects “V’ata t’tzaveh, You shall command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives…” (Ex. 27:20) to the Hebrew word tzavta, which means together. Since the oil creates the light in the mishkan and since light is a symbol for Torah, he’s saying it is the Israelite people who are the source of Moses’ ability to expound Torah. This is supported by the observation teachers learn the most from their students (Babylonian Talmud Taanit 7a).

Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (1816-1893; head of the great Volozhin Yeshiva in Lithuania), takes the light imagery a step further. The menorah is to be lit daily, for all time. Thus, the oil and the menorah represent the self-renewing ability of the Torah to generate infinite light. Together, they are a source of creative inspiration (Babylonian Talmud B’rachot 57a). So while Aaron and his sons ascend to the priesthood, their functions are routine, highly scripted, and ultimately, come to an end. The Torah (and its interpretation) is creative, flexible, and eternal. Aaron is necessary, but without Moses (and without the Israelites), there is no light.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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