Tetzaveh: Olive Oil
“You, [Moses], must command the Israelites
to bring you clear illuminating oil,
made from hand crushed olives,
to keep the lamp constantly burning.”
“G-d had called you green olive tree,
fair, with beautiful fruit”
(Yirmiyahu 11:16) The midrash relates three explanations for the symbolism of the olive and its oil.
1. The olive produces its oil as a result of being ground and crushed. Similarly, the Jewish People do teshuva as a result of being persecuted.
2. Just as oil doesn’t mix with other liquids, so too Jews do not mingle with non-Jews, as we are commanded, “do not intermarry.”
3. Whatever liquid oil is mixed with it always rises to the top. So too when we follow G-d we stand in first place.The Shemen HaTov by Rabbi Bernard Weinberger explains that the midrash can be applied to three types of Jews.
1. There are those who have no connection with their religion and only when they feel the hatred of the nations do they return to their roots and unite with their fellow Jews.
2. Then there are people who are distant from Torah, however they are opposed to assimilation, and remain uncompromising regarding one thing – intermarriage.
3. There are those who stay immersed in Torah and separate from the ways of the nations of the world, unsatisfied with waiting for wake up calls, or settling only for not intermarrying. These people rise up and provide hope of an Israel separate and exalted.
Man Makes The Clothing
I was in Kindergarten, sitting on the floor Indian Style, listening to short, dark Israeli Rocheil tell the story of a poor man in shabby clothes who goes to a fancy dinner party and is thrown out as soon as they see his appearance. I vividly recall Rocheil describing how weeks later after having found a job and saved cash the man returns well groomed and finely dressed. He’s presented with a great meal. He proceeds to pour the soup, meat, potatoes, etc. all over his head and body. He explains that as he was not given the food when sloppily groomed, and the only difference now was in that department, he figured the food was for the clothes. So he gave it to them.
I’d like to try to balance the equation with the following true anecdote from the book MASTERPLAN by Rabbi Aryeh Carmel. There was a London woman who married a man with an African heritage. He inherited the kingdom and they moved back to his country where he ruled as the new king. His wife took to the role but it pained her to find that the town’s women were depressed and listless. She presented them with colorful clothing made from fabric that was aesthetically alive. In a very short span of time the women came to life and were full of a newfound energy.
There is truth to both sides of clothing. On the one hand clothing cannot make the man. Ultimately it is up to a man to make himself, and the fanciest of suits can’t do the job for him. On the other hand there is a place in life for uniforms that are appropriate for people in specific contexts.
The Ibn Ezra comments on the words “Lekavod U’Letifaret” that “they can be glorified by them BECAUSE no one else in Israel wears clothing like this”. He’s fine tuning the point that how we dress is important. If everyone dresses like a Kohein then what is special might be lost.
How we dress is one of those personal things that include multiple messages that we may not think about as much as we should. Our clothing can lift us up or pull us down. Our clothing can pull others in or push them away. Our clothing can state that we feel like an image of G-d, or that we feel that we are something else.