Chanuka is far behind us, but the image of the pure, burning lights of the Menorah are marked in my memory. The image of simple, gently flickering lamps of oil projects a sense of serenity, that all is at peace.
But think, for a moment, about the tumultuous past behind that serenity. Think of the olive, torn from the tree, ground to a pulp, pressed under massive weights, and finally producing oil, strained and filtered of all its impurities. The serenity of the oil’s light is the product of great stress.
The Torah portion of Tetzaveh opens with a Commandment to take pure, pressed olive oil to kindle the Tabernacle’s Menorah. The Midrash compares us to the olive which produces that oil. Our lives undergo similar stress and suffering, in the midst of which there’s often very little clarity, but often that suffering results in our awareness of treasures that were right in front of us — the beauty of the scenery, the warmth of family and friends, the tastes and smells that were taken for granted. Most of all, there’s often an awareness of G-d’s love which somehow lets us understand and bear the pain. It’s a grinding process, but in the end there’s an awareness of purity and Divinity, carved into our memory to carry with us. (Midrash Rabba 36:1. Nesivos Shalom 221)
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org