Enjoy four short thoughts and a video adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Parshat Tetzaveh.

A Leader

The Torah reading begins with the command to bring oil for the Menorah, the candelabra lit in the Sanctuary. The Jews were directed to bring pure oil to Moses so the lamps could be kindled. Our Rabbis ask: Aaron, the priest, kindled the Menorah. Why then was the oil brought to Moses?

It is explained, that oil represents the quintessential spiritual potential that every Jew possesses within his soul. But oil must be lit. It is not enough to possess a spiritual potential, we must do whatever is necessary to make sure this spiritual potential is activated and shines.

This is why the connection to Moses is so important. Moses was not merely a leader who taught the Jewish people and imparted knowledge to them. Moses “spoke to G‑d face to face.” For him, G‑dliness was as actual a factor as ordinary material existence is to us.

And when people established a connection with Moses, G‑dliness became a cogently real factor in their lives as well. Because Moses’ inner spiritual potential was overtly revealed, being in contact with Moses empowered and enabled every person to reveal his own spiritual potential.

In every generation there are Jewish leaders, whose lives serve as beacons to inspire others to awaken their inner spiritual potential. When people come into contact with such an individual, they cannot remain unmoved; the oil within their souls is kindled and begins to glow.
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The Two Altars

Parshat Tetzaveh contains the command to construct the golden altar, the altar that was placed inside the Sanctuary itself. Last week’s Torah reading related the command to construct the outer altar in the courtyard of the Sanctuary. Why aren’t the two altars mentioned together?

The resolution is based on the concept that the Sanctuary provided a visible representation of the private sanctuary each one of us possesses in our hearts. An altar points to man’s efforts to approach G‑d. Just as we have feelings that we show to others, and inner, more powerful feelings that we usually keep to ourselves; so, too, in the Sanctuary, there was an outer altar in public view, and an inner altar within the Sanctuary itself.

The sacrifices were offered on the outer altar. קרבן, the Hebrew word for sacrifices, comes from the root קרב, meaning “close.” The sacrifices brought a person closer to G‑d.

The incense offering was brought on the inner altar. קטרת, meaning “incense,” shares a connection with the word קטר, meaning “bond.” The incense offering did not merely draw us close to G‑d; it established a bond with Him.

The difference between the two is obvious. Wanting to be close indicates that there exists a distance, and more importantly that the person who desires to be close feels as a separate entity.

When people bond, they subsume their personal identities to that of the new entity which is formed. A couple are not merely two people in love; they have bonded themselves into a new and complete union.

The incense offering refers to the establishment of such a bond with G‑d. A person loses sight of who he or she is and identifies with G‑d and His purpose. He is no longer so concerned with his own personal wants or needs, but sees a larger picture. He begins looking at the world from G‑d’s perspective.
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The Purest Oil

This week’s reading begins with the commandment to prepare olive oil for the Menorah, the candelabrum used in the Beis HaMikdash. The Torah relates that the oil must be “crushed for the light.” Our Sages explain that the olive is an analogy for the Jewish people. When they are “crushed,” pressed to their very core, they produce oil “for the light,” “the light of the redemption.”

There is, however, a difference between the manner in which this motif applies in the present generation and the manner in which it was expressed in previous generations. In previous generations, the “crushing” was external. Through persecution after persecution, pogrom after pogrom, exile after exile, the external shell of the Jewish people was crushed and their inner G‑dly core revealed.

In the present era, thank G‑d, such crushing generally does not exist. By and large, the Jewish people live in peace and prosperity without persecution by the nations of the world. And yet, we feel “crushed;” the very fact that we are in exile, that Mashiach has not come, and the world has not reached its desired purpose is a crushing realization, one that shocks each one of us to his very core and motivates him or her to “produce his oil” for “the light of the redemption.”
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The Essence

During most years, the seventh of Adar — the day of Moshe Rabbeinu’s demise — occurs in close proximity to the reading of Tetzaveh. Our Sages note that there is an allusion to Moshe’s demise in Tetzaveh, in that this is the only Torah portion (from the time of Moshe’s birth until the Book of Devarim), in which he is not mentioned by name.

This must be understood. Only Moshe’s name is not mentioned in this portion; there are, however, a multitude of passages that relate to him, beginning with the first verse of the portion: “And you [i.e., Moshe] shall command….”

Moreover, not mentioning the name of a dying tzaddik seems to nullify the very meaning of his demise; the passing of a tzaddik in no way affects his good name and deeds — they live on forever — only the body passes from this world.

How, then, can we say that Moshe’s demise is alluded to in a portion that does not mention his name?

The Zohar states that “A tzaddik that has passed on is found in all worlds to an [infinitely] greater degree than when he was alive.”

The Alter Rebbe explains that while the tzaddik was alive his life-force was clothed in a physical body, so only a glimmer could be perceived. However, after his demise this limitation ends and it is possible to receive from his essence.

A person’s name has little to do with his essence; a name is needed only so that other people can call on him; a person as he exists for himself needs no name. The pronoun “you,” however, relates to the essence of a person — when one turns to another and says “you,” one is referring to the entire individual.

So too with regard to Moshe. At the time of Moshe’s passing he ascended to a level far loftier than can be encompassed by a name. Thus at the time of his demise, he is not referred to by name.
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The Holiest Altar

The verse in Parshas Tetzaveh states: “The Altar is holy of holies, all that touches it shall become sanctified.” Chabad Chassidic teaching explains that the Holy Altar corresponds to the heart of every Jew. During exile, prayer – the “Service of the Heart” – stands in the place of the sacrifices. And Maimonides rules: “Every person, no matter who he is, that devotes himself to the service of G‑d, becomes ‘holy of holies’ like Aaron the High Priest.”