Volume 31, No. 20
13 Adar 5777
March 11, 2017
This week’s parashah begins with the mitzvah to take pure olive oil for use in the menorah in the mishkan and Bet Hamikdash. R’ Moshe Isserles z”l (“Rema”; 1530-1572; rabbi of Cracow, Poland, and author of the glosses on Shulchan Aruch that adapted that work for Ashkenazim) writes that the oil and the menorah are symbols of Torah scholars and the Torah, respectively. This is illustrated by the verses (Zechariah 4:2-3, 11-12, 14), “I said, ‘I see, and behold–there is a menorah made entirely of gold with its bowl on its top; its seven lamps are upon it, and there are seven ducts for each of the lamps on its top. There are two olive trees over it, one at the right of the bowl and one on its left.’ . . . I then spoke up and said to him, ‘What are these two olive trees, on the right of the menorah and on its left?’ I spoke up a second time and said to him, “What are the two clusters of olives that are next to the two golden presses, which are pouring golden oil from themselves?’ . . . He said to me, ‘These are the two anointed men who are standing near the Lord of the Land’.” The Gemara (Sanhedrin 24a) comments: “‘The two anointed men who are standing near the Lord of the Land’ allude to Torah scholars in Eretz Yisrael, whose Torah study is pleasant one to the other. ‘The two olive trees’ allude to Torah scholars in Bavel, whose Torah study is bitter one to the other [as raw olives are bitter].” [This is a reference to the different styles of the Talmud Bavli / Babylonian Talmud and the Talmud Yerushalmi / Palestinian Talmud, the former of which contains significantly more debate and give-and-take than the latter.] We see, Rema writes, that the olive trees and the oil allude to Torah scholars. The menorah itself, he writes, alludes to the seven branches of the Torah and also to the seven general wisdoms, all of which are incorporated into the Torah. (Torah Ha’olah I ch.16)
“Now you shall command Bnei Yisrael that they shall take for you pure, pressed olive oil for illumination, to kindle the lamp continually.” (27:20)
Many commentaries have noted the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu’s name does not appear in this week’s Parashah. R’ Yissochor Zev Weisfeld shlita (Brooklyn, N.Y.) suggests the following explanation for this fact:
The final verse in last week’s Parashah (immediately preceding the verse quoted above) states, “All the vessels of the Tabernacle for all its labor, all its pegs and all the pegs of the Courtyard — copper.” R’ Weisfeld notes that there were three metals used to make the Mishkan: gold, silver and copper. Gold is the finest of the three, but also very soft. Therefore, gold cannot be used to make tools. Silver is harder than gold, and copper is harder still. These three metals represent three types of Tzaddikim: gold represents a Tzaddik who is too delicate to exert meaningful influence on his surroundings, whereas copper represents a lesser Tzaddik, but one who is “harder” and capable of being involved in the world around him.
R’ Weisfeld continues: Pure, pressed olive oil, the subject of our verse, is even more delicate than gold, for even the tiniest impurity will ruin it. As is well known, our Sages use olive oil as a metaphor for the wisdom of the Torah [see above]–the lesson being that any impurity lessens the quality of one’s Torah study. Thus we read (Tehilim 50:16), “But to the wicked man, G-d said, ‘What business do you have to recount My statutes, and to bring up My covenant on Your mouth?’”
Moshe Rabbeinu had two roles vis-a-vis the Jewish People. On the one hand, he had to address every need of even the simplest Jew. He had to lift up every Jew, just as Pharaoh’s daughter lifted him out of the Nile, an event commemorated by the name “Moshe.” That is why last week’s Parashah, which ends with the word “copper,” the material that represents the Tzaddik who is involved in the world, does mention Moshe’s name. On the other hand, he had to teach Torah in all its purity. Our Sages say that when the future law-giver was born, the entire house was filled with light. That light appeared before he was named “Moshe.” Thus, our Parashah, which alludes to the purity of Torah, does not mention his name. (Ziv Ha’chochmah)
“The Choshen / Breastplate shall not be separated from upon the Ephod / Apron.” (28:28)
Literally, this verse teaches a halachah that the Kohen Gadol’s Choshen should remain firmly attached to his Ephod. R’ Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudlikov z”l (1748-1800; grandson of the Ba’al Shem Tov z”l) writes that this verse hints at another lesson as well:
The Choshen rests over the Kohen Gadol’s heart. The gematria of “Ephod” (aleph-pay-dalet) equals the gematria of “peh” / “mouth.” Thus, our verse is hinting that one’s heart and mouth should never “be separated.” Rather, one’s “heart and mouth should be equal,” which is our Sages’ way of saying that one should not speak deceitfully. (Degel Machaneh Ephraim)
“Aharon shall bring atonement upon [the altar’s] horns once a year, from the blood of the sin-offering of the atonements, once a year, he shall bring atonement upon it for your generations; it is holy of holies to Hashem.” (30:10)
Why does the verse say twice that Aharon shall “bring atonement” on the altar “once a year”? R’ Shlomo Kluger z”l (1784-1869; rabbi of Brody, Galicia) explains:
There are two aspects of our sins. The first is personal; man is responsible for his own sins. The second is communal; if one of us sins, all of us bear some blame because “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh b’zeh” / “All Jews are responsible for each other.” Thus, the first atonement is for the personal aspect of the sin, while the second atonement is for the communal aspect. That is why the second phrase refers to atonement “for your generations.” When one person sins, the entire generation needs atonement.
(Kohelet Yaakov: Shekalim, Drush 14)
“The contents of the document were to be promulgated in every province and be published to all peoples so that the Jews should be atidim / ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.” (Esther 8:13)
In this verse in the Megillah, the word “atidim” is spelled with an extra, silent letter “vav.” What is the significance of that vav? R’ Mordechai Zvi Adler z”l (dayan in Uglya, Hungary; late 19th – early 20th centuries) explains:
The Mishnah (end of Tractate Uktzin) teaches that Hashem has found no receptacle more suitable for holding blessings than shalom / peace. This is why Birkat Kohanim / the Priestly Blessing culminates with a blessing for shalom, for that is the pinnacle of all blessings. Note that Birkat Kohanim consists of six phrases, of which, “May He give you shalom,” is the sixth. Note also that the Gematria of the letter vav is six.
When Mordechai pleaded with Esther to go to Achashveirosh in an attempt to annul Haman’s decree, she responded (4:16), “Go, assemble all the Jews to be found in Shushan . . .” It was understood that if the Jewish People would observe the entire Torah, they would be invincible. However, it is impossible for any one Jew to observe the entire Torah, since some mitzvot are only for men, others only for women, some only for Kohanim, some only for Levi’im, etc. But, if the Jewish People are united, then, collectively, they can observe the whole Torah. That is why Esther instructed Mordechai to assemble “all” the Jews.
This, concludes R’ Adler, is the reason for the extra vav. In order to be ready to fight back against Haman’s attack, the Jewish People needed the vav, the sixth blessing, which is shalom / unity. (Ir Mivtzar)
“Moshe said to Yehoshua, ‘Choose people for us and go do battle with Amalek . . .’” (Shmot 17:9 – from the Torah reading for Purim)
R’ Yosef Feimer z”l (1796-1864; rabbi of Slutsk, Belarus) writes: Our Sages say that the offspring of Esav can be defeated only by the offspring of Rachel. That is why we read (Bereishit 30:25), “It was, when Rachel had given birth to Yosef, Yaakov said to Lavan, ‘Grant me leave that I may go to my place and to my land’.” [Yaakov had run away from Esav, but he felt secure going home once Rachel had given birth.] This also is why Moshe chose Yehoshua, from the tribe of Ephraim, son of Yosef, to fight Amalek, a grandson of Esav. In a later generation, King Shaul, from the tribe of Binyamin, was chosen to fight Amalek. And, when he failed to finish the Mitzvah [as we read today, in the Haftarah for Parashat Zachor], it devolved upon his descendants Mordechai and Esther. This is what Mordechai meant when he said to Esther (4:14), “For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this . . . you and your father’s house will perish,” i.e., your ancestor Shaul will never achieve atonement. (Derashot Rabbeinu Yosef Mi’Slutsk)