You shall command the Children of Israel and have them bring you clear olive oil, [made from olives that were] crushed for lighting, to keep the lamp burning constantly. In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain, which is before the Testimony, Aharon and his sons shall arrange it [for the lamp to burn] from evening to morning before God. This is an everlasting statute for their generations of the Children of Israel (Exodus 27:20-21).”
God commands Moshe to issue the call for pure, virgin olive oil which would be used for the daily kindling of the Menorah. But why here? Moshe had already asked the people (in last week’s Parsha) to contribute the various materials necessary for the construction, fabrication and maintenance of the Mishkan, Tabernacle. Furthermore, why is the discussion about the oil inserted here between the sections of the construction of the Mishkan and its utensils and the appointment of Aharon and his sons?
Rabbi Moshe Alshech (born in Turkey in 1507, and died 1593 in Tzefat, Israel) explains that Moshe was distressed. Moshe had seen the incredible generosity of the people. He asked them to contribute precious metals, fine fabric and jewels and they did so with a complete heart and a generous spirit. In fact that they were so generous that as the collection continued Moshe actually had to tell them to stop bringing additional materials. Moshe saw Betzalel and Ohaliav, the head craftsmen who together with their volunteers built and constructed the various utensils and structure of the Mishkan. He saw Aharon who was chosen by God to be the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and he saw his nephews who had been chosen to serve alongside their illustrious father. Moshe saw all of this and grew despondent. “What is my role? Where is my share in this holy work?” Moshe felt left out and unimportant. And it was in this moment of despondence and sadness that God appeared to Moshe and told him, “You are vital to the people and the nation, for you are the enabler for their growth.” Where did this national generosity come from? The people saw Moshe’s selflessness; they saw all he sacrificed for God and the nation. The people said, “If Moshe could give up the trappings of a normal life to serve God, we can give our gold, silver and jewels.” When Aharon was asked to assume the role of the High Priest he hesitated but quickly realized he had no choice. He knew he had to assume this mantle. “If Moshe has assumed so much responsibility, I must do my part as well.”
This is the meaning of the opening section of this week’s Parsha. God is communicating an all-important message to His beloved servant.
· “V’Ata, and you Moshe” – You must understand and appreciate how important you are.
· “V’Yikchu Eylecha Shemen Zayis Zach, and have them bring you clear olive oil” - Oil represents potential; it is the fuel capable of creating great illumination. Tell the people to come before you with their oil of potential.
· “L’Haalos Ner Tamid, to light a lamp continually” – Moshe, you are the flame; you are the one who ignites the oil of the people. You are the catalyst for their growth; you are the one who inspires them to be more and to actualize their potential.
· “V’Ata Hakrev Eylecha Es Aharon Achica V’es Banav, And you, bring near to yourself Aaron your brother, and his sons with him…” – Moshe your brother is unsure of himself, build him up. Bring him close to you and inspire him. Whisper in his ear that you believe in him. Remind him, that if you can assume your responsibilities he can assume his. Ignite his oil and allow him to find his greatness.
It is in these simple verses that God lifts Moshe from the depths of despondency and reminds him that enabling others to find their personal greatness is the pinnacle of human accomplishment.
We often assume that the path to life-greatness is paved with personal accomplishments. This is true – but only in part. We must grow, we must do and we must accomplish. However, we must remember that a life solely devoted to self-actualization is incomplete. I must strive to enable others to grow and accomplish. A kind word, a compliment, a few words of inspiration can be what the other needs in order to move forward in his/her journey. With our spouses, our children, our friends and our community – our job is to become Moshe Rabbeinu enablers of growth. We must each strive to be the flame that ignites the soulful, potential-rich oil of the other.