"ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך כתית למאור להעלת נר תמיד"
“And you shall command the Children of Israel, that they shall take for you pure olive oil, crushed for illumination, to kindle a lamp continually.” (Shemot 27:20)

QUESTION: What message does Moshe’s command concerning oil for the Menorah convey to the Jewish people for posterity?

ANSWER: “Veyikchu eilecha shemen zayit zach” — “They shall take for you pure olive oil.” Olive oil does not mix with any other liquid, but rather separates and rises to the top. This reminds the Jews that they are unique, and should not mix and assimilate with others.

“Katit lama’or” — “Crushed for illumination.” The “ma’or” represents the light of Torah: as stated in Proverbs (6:23), “Torah is or — light.” In order to truly succeed in Torah study, one needs to “crush” oneself, as our Sages tell us, “Yagati umatzati ta’amin” — “If someone says, ‘I have toiled and I have succeeded’ believe him” (Megillah 6b).

“Leha’alot neir tamid” — “to kindle a lamp continually.” The “lamp” represents the soul of the Jew — “Neir Hashem nishmat adam — “The ‘lamp’ of Hashem is the soul of the person” (Proverbs 20:27). The purpose of the Jew in this world is “leha’alot neir tamid” — to continually elevate his soul.

(משכנותיך ישראל)


"שמן זית זך כתית למאור"
“Pure olive oil, crushed for illumination.” (27:20)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Menachot 86a) says that the olives were divided into three grades, superior, intermediate and inferior. The oil of each grade was divided into three quality levels. The first level of the superior grade was supreme, and it was used for the kindling of the Menorah. The second oil of the superior grade and the first oil of the intermediate grade were equally acceptable for menachot — meal-offerings — but only the first oil of the intermediate grade could be used for the Menorah, and not the second oil of the superior grade. The third oil of the superior grade and the second oil of the intermediate grade and the first oil of the inferior grade were all equal for menachot, but only the first oil of the inferior grade could be used for the Menorah.

Why should the first oil of the inferior grade have priority for the kindling of the Menorah over the second and third oil of the superior grade?

ANSWER: Not all men are alike. Some have better faculties and some poorer. King Shlomo says, “Neir Hashem nishmat adam” — “A man’s soul is the candle of G‑d” (Proverbs 20:27) — and all the details connected with the Menorah contain teachings which apply to man’s life. The lesson that can be learned from the law concerning the different levels of oil is that Hashem does not expect one person to be like another person, but He does expect him to achieve his utmost. Therefore, if one is capable of being on the highest level, one may not settle for being second. On the other hand, if one is only capable of the second level and one excels in that, his achievement equals that of the one who is uppermost in the first level.

* * *

The famous tzaddik Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli (1718-1800) once said, “When I come before the Heavenly tribunal, I am not afraid that they will demand of me, ‘Why wasn’t Zusha like the patriarch Avraham?’ Because I will reply, “I am not Avraham.” But I am afraid lest they ask me, ‘Why wasn’t Zusha as Zusha could have been?’ ”

Likewise, a parent or teacher should never say to a child or student “why didn’t you do on your exam as good as the other child did,” rather they should demand “why didn’t you do as good as you are capable of doing.”

(שמעתי מדיין יצחק דוב שי' בערגער מלאנדאן, אנגלי')


"שמן זית זך כתית למאור"
“Pure olive oil, crushed for illumination.” (27:20)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that the first drop of oil which was extracted when crushed in a mortar is the finest, and such oil was used to kindle the Menorah. The remaining oil of the olive which was extracted by grinding the olives in a mill, was not as pure, and was used for menachot — meal offerings.

Normally, one uses the best oil for baking and cheaper oil for burning or lighting. Why in the Mishkan was it the reverse?

ANSWER: The Menorah is the prototype of spirituality. It represents Torah and mitzvot, as King Shlomo states, “Neir mitzvah veTorah or” — “A candle is a mitzvah and Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23). A Karban Minchah is eaten and represents the material and physical needs of a person.

Unfortunately, there are people who plead poverty when they have to spend money for Torah and mitzvot, but have plenty of money when it comes to personal matters. From the way things were done in the Mishkan, we can learn true priorities. For Torah and mitzvot one should spend money and use the best and purest. For personal pleasure, a Jew should practice restraint and learn to suffice with less.

(כלי יקר)


"ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך"
“They shall take for you pure olive oil.” (27:20)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah use the word “zayit” (olive) in the singular, rather than “zeitim” (plural)?

ANSWER: When food the size of an egg or larger becomes tamei (defiled), it can transmit defilement to other liquids. In smaller amounts, it can become tamei, but cannot transmit its tumah (defilement).

The oil in the olive is considered as though it is enclosed in a casing within the olive. Consequently, even when an olive becomes tamei, the oil in it retains its purity.

Although the oil is considered a separate entity within the olive, it is measured together with the olive for purposes of transmitting tumah. Thus, if the size of the tamei olive is bigger than an egg, the first drop of oil pressed becomes tamei as soon as it touches the outside skin (see Pesachim 33b).

When Moshe instructed the Jews to contribute olives in order to make pure oil for the Menorah, a problem arose. The olives in their possession were brought with them from Egypt. They were unsure about their purity and in doubt whether they could be used for the Mishkan.

Moshe therefore advised them to use average-sized olives, normally equal to half an egg. He also told them not to squeeze more than one olive at a time. Consequently, even if the olive was defiled, it would not be large enough to transmit tumah to the oil that came out.

(פנים יפות)


"ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך כתית למאור להעלת נר תמיד"
“They should take for you pure olive oil, crushed for illumination, to kindle a lamp continually.” (27:20)

QUESTION: Would it not have been sufficient to just say, “They should take for you pure olive oil for the light.” Why are the words “katit” — crushed — and “leha’alot neir tamid” — to kindle a lamp continually needed?

ANSWER: The first Beit Hamikdash existed for 410 years, and the second lasted 420 years. During the entire 830 years the Menorah was kindled every day. We all hope to merit speedily the third Beit Hamikdash, which will last forever. The elaboration in the pasuk is a remez — hint — to this.

The word “katit” (כתית) — “crushed” — has in it the letters "כ" and "ת", whose numerical value is 420, and the letters "י" and "ת", which have a numerical value of 410. The oil should be "כתית" — for 830 years of lighting the Menorah. Afterwards, will be “leha’alot neir tamid” — the third Beit Hamikdash — in which the candles will be lit forever.

(בעל הטורים - תולדות יצחק)