by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"Take to yourself pure olive oil..." [27:20]
The Tzeror HaMor offers a homiletic explanation of the need for pure oil.
Israel is compared to an olive: just like an olive produces its pure oil
only when it is crushed, so too we see the Nation of Israel at its finest
when it faces difficult trials.
Israel is also compared to oil, which cannot mix with other liquids -
rather, it always rises to the top. Even if you shake and mix Israel among
the other nations of the world, we always remain distinct.
The Tzeror HaMor then focuses on the connection between these two
attributes: it is specifically in the face of great difficulties that
Israel separates out and rises up.
The Rebbe of Klausenberg was imprisoned in a Nazi camp during the
Holocaust, but he retained his dedication to G-d and Judaism throughout. He
even continued to wear Tefillin, which he had hidden with him.
One day, a Nazi guard discovered him with his Tefillin. He fell upon the
Rebbe, beating him furiously. Then, once the Rebbe had fallen, the guard
placed his foot on the Rebbe's face, pressing the bottom of his boot into
the Rebbe's cheek. "Now," mocked the guard, "do you still think you are the
The Rebbe replied, "as long as you are up there, and I am down here, I
know we are the chosen people."
It is specifically when facing trials that Israel can rise up and
demonstrate its best qualities. The Nazis tried to make themselves the
"super-race," while dehumanizing the Jews. What happened was just the
reverse: the Nazis are considered inhuman by all humans, while the Jewish
people are rising from the ashes...
Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis,
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.