And you shall command the Bnei Yisrael that they shall take for you pure, pressed oil…to raise up the lamp continually.
People are fascinated by the explanations of why Moshe’s name does not appear even once in this parshah. The question is really stronger than we think. The omission of Moshe’s name in this pasuk alone should set off alarm bells. Why does the Torah abandon the usual and familiar formula – “Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying” – specifically here, regarding the mitzvah of preparing menorah oil? While we are at it, why does our pasuk begin with the letter vav, which translates as “and,” when no conjunction seems appropriate?
One of the most fundamental questions that kabbalah addresses is the paradox of Hashem’s infinity. How does Hashem’s infinity leave room, so to speak, for a world that is very much finite, that is circumscribed in place and time? The concept of tzimtzum addresses this problem, but there is so much more to say. Hashem’s shefa, emanating from His infinite Self, still has to find a way to penetrate a finite world. There needs to be a vehicle, so to speak, that can transition from the infinite to the finite.
That vehicle is the Torah. More specifically, the letters of the Torah are vehicles of tzimtzum. Hashem contracts Himself in those letters, which are able to contain some of His light within them. Through them, HKBH was able to create a measured, bounded world. Thus we learn that the root and source of every neshamah is in a letter of the Torah. That packet of Hashem’s light vitalizes our existence. And the essential unity of the Jewish people owes to the Torah linking all those letters together.
The Gemara asks how the Torah can command us to attach ourselves to Hashem, when the Shechinah is a consuming fire? The Gemara explains that we are to attach ourselves to His midos. That is the equivalent of attaching ourselves to Him. But how does this answer the question? The plain sense of the verse is to attach ourselves to Him, and says nothing about His midos!
Rather, those midos traditionally number thirteen. They in turn correspond to the thirteen midos that we recite each morning in the Beraisa of R. Yishmael. They are the tools of Torah she-b’al peh, which allow a fleshing out the latent intent of the letters of the written Torah. When a person delves into the Torah, he attaches himself to the root of his neshamah (as explained above), uniting himself with Hashem who is contained in its letters. Through his learning, he effectively does attach himself to Hashem! (Keep in mind that the word midah is related to madad/measure. Hashem’s midos are the measured-out pathways for containing His ohr, and sharing it with the world.)
A verse speaks of “Toras Moshe.” Moshe is identified with Torah, with supernal Daas. Our parshah is usually read the week of the 7th of Adar, the anniversary of Moshe’s death. His death means the withdrawal of Divine Daas. But that Daas did not vanish. It took up residence in the words of Torah.
We earlier asked why Moshe’s name is not mentioned in giving this mitzvah, as it is throughout the Torah. Because it is associated with Moshe’s death date, his name is not mentioned explicitly. It is very much there implicitly – in the letter vav, with which the parshah begins. The letter vav is in the form of a straight line, seemingly connecting two points. It denotes hamshachah, drawing out and continuing something from one place to another.
That is exactly what Torah does. It draws out Daas from Above, and stretches it to our realm. The verse continues with instructions for every Jew to take the olive oil (= wisdom) of Torah for himself. The oil must be pure/ zach, whose gematria equals 27, or the number of letters (counting the end-of-word forms) used in forming the Torah. The oil is pressed: Each person must press himself to push hard to extract the Daas in Torah, to raise up his ner ( = neshamah) continually.