Parashat Tetzaveh

This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Tetzaveh. In one part of this parsha, we learn that the oil that was used to light the Menorah in the Mishkan (and later the Beit Hamikdash) had to be made of pure, pressed olive oil.

Rashi tells us that the oil was not obtained normally by grinding olives; instead, the olives were placed in a mortar. Only the very first drop of oil, the purest of the pure, was extracted from each olive for the lighting of the Menorah. Clearly, the oil used was spotless and fine.

The actual Menorah had to be hard, as it was made of pure gold. It was not soft and fine, a clear contrast between the Menorah and the oil. Just like the Menorah and the oil together, the Kohen–the leader who lit the Menorah– had to exhibit these same qualities. The Kohen had to have a hard and strong-willed character while simultaneously displaying a soft and pure nature. The Menorah and the oil were dependent on each other–the oil would have been useless if the Menorah hadn’t existed. Similarly, the Kohen needed to be both strong and soft in his personality traits–he could not have chosen one quality over the other.

We can learn a very valuable lesson here. A proficient person is someone who possesses these same qualities that the Menorah/oil and the Kohen displayed. At times, one must be strong in his/her actions, while at other times one must be soft and more lenient. It is this idea of a balance in character that makes a competent and wise person.