Subscribe to our Newsletter

click to dowload our latest edition



Kindling the soul



One has to wonder why the Torah goes into such great detail to describe the construction of the Mishkan – the Tabernacle – which the Jews built in the desert.

If the Torah is meant to be an instruction book for life, what lessons can we learn from these very specific details about the vessels and structures of the Mishkan?

The Kabbalists teach us that the Mishkan and all its details are really a model for living a life of spirituality, meaning, and purpose. G-d doesn’t just desire a home in one space – in a Mishkan or the Beit Hamikdash, or even today’s shuls and yeshivas. G-d wants each one of us to create a mini-sanctuary in our own homes and lives.

By studying the structure of the Mishkan and its furnishings, you can learn about the structure and furnishings of your life.

This week’s Torah portion of Tetzavah opens with the instruction to kindle the menorah daily in the Mishkan. The Talmud explains that the glow of the menorah extended even outside the sanctuary and was meant to light up the entire world. In our own lives, in our mini-Mishkans, the menorah represents the soul, whose light can radiate outward and light up the world around us. Kindling this light to illuminate the darkness of our world is a lifetime of work. The instructions in this week’s parsha on lighting the menorah teach us how to cultivate our inner light.

G-d instructs Moshe, “You shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for the luminary, to kindle the lamps.”

Why does the Torah include the phrase “crushed for the luminary”? Surely we already know how olive oil is extracted? On a halachic level, it teaches us that the oil for the menorah needed to be extracted with the intent of using it for the menorah. But if we look closer, the wording itself doesn’t seem to make sense. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say “crushed to illuminate”? After all, the purpose of the oil was to illuminate, not to sit in the menorah, the luminary.

In this one verse, the Torah teaches us how to approach life’s challenges. “Crushed for the luminary” teaches us that when we’re crushed – when we go through challenges, when we’re pressed – the soul’s essence is revealed and shines brightly. Throughout history, when Jews experienced great difficulty, they remained committed, proud Jews. Their souls shined through the evil decrees of Haman, the Greeks, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Holocaust. Although these experiences crushed us, they didn’t destroy us. We emerged stronger than before.

This is what G-d wants to teach us. Challenges are opportunities for endurance and growth, to shine our light that illuminates the environment.

Today, we see this light shining strongly. Young and old, people from across the political and religious spectrum, are shining their light and uniting for am Yisrael. This week’s Torah portion reminds us that though the horrific attacks of 7 October have certainly crushed us, they haven’t destroyed us but revealed our light, a light of morality and unity that stands firm, illuminating the dark world around us. This week’s Torah portion challenges each of us and asks, how will you shine your light?

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *