June 22, 2024
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Building the Spiritual Land

“By the work one knows the workmen.” -Jean De La Fontaine

It is not coincidental that the Menorah (the Candelabrum) mentioned in this week’s parsha of Tetzaveh becomes the symbol for the reborn State of Israel. The image is drawn directly from the prophecy of Zechariah, mentioned in the fourth chapter of his eponymous book, one of the books of Trei Asar, the 12 minor prophets:

“I see a lampstand all of gold … The lamps on it are seven in number … and by it are two olives (trees), one on the right … and one on its left.” – Zechariah 4:2-3

Zechariah shares with us the vision of the Menorah together with the source of the fuel for the Menorah, oil-producing olive trees, placed on either side of the Menorah.

I would like to suggest that this vision hints at two distinct yet highly complementary attributes that need to underline the actions of the people of Israel as we rebuild the Land of Israel. Those attributes are purity and intent, and together, purity of intent.

In analyzing this week’s parsha, the Sfat Emet in 5635 (1875) discusses the Torah’s ongoing mention of olive oil. He explains that the very first drop of oil to be squeezed out of the olive is pristine, the purest oil. This mirrors the very first act of the Jewish people at the foot of Mount Sinai when they accepted the Torah with the declaration of “we will do and we will obey.” That first drop of Jewish self-determination revealed a level of faith and loyalty that would serve the Jewish people well for the rest of history.

Our ancestors, however, did not retain that strong faith for very long. They sinned quickly, seriously, and repeatedly: the Golden Calf, the sin of the spies, Korach’s rebellion, and even more instances once we entered the Land of Israel.

The Sfat Emet compares the subsequent sins to oil mixed with olive dregs. It’s dirty. It’s unpleasant. It’s second rate. However, even that type of oil can be separated from the dregs. In the merit of the first pure drop, all of Israel, all of us, have the possibility of separating ourselves from our errors of the past and raising ourselves to levels that can illuminate the world around us.

In short, our efforts should be as pure as possible, but even if they are not pure, we always have the opportunity to purify them. In fact, it’s a constant process of refining our actions, our speech, and our thoughts.

Regarding intent, the Netziv on this parsha (Exodus 28:3) says that there was a certain spiritual energy and a vivifying effect that occurred during the construction of the Tabernacle as well as with the formation of all of the priestly vessels and garments. The artisans who fabricated each component did so with great intent. They placed a part of their soul into their work. Aaron, the high priest, was able to sense their spirit and purity of purpose, which in turn fortified him in his work as the spiritual representative of the Nation of Israel. Our intent needs to be proper, focused, meaningful.

When we bring the aspect of purity together with driving intent and develop purity of intent, then we can truly and successfully build a healthy, strong, spiritually vibrant land. We can light the Menorah that will be a beacon of light and hope not just for the Jewish people, but for the entire world.

May we merit to achieve purity of intent in all of our noble pursuits.


Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former chief rabbi of Uruguay. He is also the author of many books on a range of Torah themes, and is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers’ Bureau ( www.mizrachi.org/speakers ).

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