The opening verse of this week's portion, tetzaveh, commands:
ë åÀàÇúÌÈä úÌÀöÇåÌÆä àÆúÎáÌÀðÅé éÄùÀÉøÈàÅì åÀéÄ÷ÀçåÌ àÅìÆéêÈ ùÑÆîÆï æÇéÄú æÈêÀ ëÌÈúÄéú ìÇîÌÈàåÉø ìÀäÇÍòÂìÉú ðÅø úÌÈîÄÍéã:
And you shall command the people of Israel, that they bring you pure beaten oil olive for the light, for the lamp to burn always.
The midrash (beresheit rabbah 36:1) connects this opening line of the portion with a verse from Jeremiah (11:16) The Lord named you, A green olive tree, fair, full of beautiful fruit.
æÇéÄú øÇÍòÂðÈï éÀôÅä ôÀøÄéÎúÉàÇø ÷ÈøÈà éÀäÉåÈä ùÑÀîÅêÀ
The Sfat Emet comments, Israel is an olive tree, whose fruit brings forth oil for light, but do you know how difficult it is to get oil from the olive? It must be crushed, with great labor. And for the Temple, only the purest presing will do.
It's not easy to create light. Even just for oil to burn, it must be touched by flame. Proverbs (6:23) states, For the commandment is a candle, and Torah is light, and the way to life is the rebuke that disciplines.
ëÌÄé ðÅø îÄöÀåÈä åÀúåÉøÈä àåÉø åÀãÆøÆêÀ çÇéÌÄéí úÌÍåÉëÀçåÉú îåÌñÈÍø:
The rabbis of the talmud often refer to rabbincal scholars and students as öåøáà îøáðï , öåÉøÅá means "on fire" or "scorched". So when the rabbis refer to their colleagues as öåøáà îøáðï, they are saying that they are on fire from their teachers. living amongst people who make Torah the center of their lives lights the scholars on fire like a flame touching oil.
The talmud says, (ta'anit 4a) If a young scholar boils, it is because the Torah inflames him, as the Torah says, Is not my word like fire? said the Lord.(Jeremiah 23)
äàé öåøáà îøáðï ãøúç Î àåøééúà äåà ã÷à îøúçà ìéä, ùðàîø )éøîéäå ë"â( äìåà ëä ãáøé ëàù ðàí ä'.
öåÉøÅá is when we make of ourselves a candle from our passion for God. The Talmud also adds to this, (Chagigah 27a) that the Scholars, their whole body is fire, for the Torah writes: Is not My word like as fire? says the Lord
úìîéãé çëîéí, ùëì âåôï àù, ãëúéá )éøîéäå ë"â( äìåà ëä ãáøé ëàù ðàí ä' Î
God's word is fire that we take within us to make of ourselves an eternally burning light. The Sufi mystic al-kalabadhi describes the phenomenon of cleaving to God in terms the rabbis understand well, "He is burnt who feels the fire, but who is the fire, how shall he be burnt?"
Like the talmud, the al-kalabadhi reminds us that love, passion, is not a calm emotion. It makes our entire being into a burning flame, a flame that is able to join with the flame of the Great Love. In directing our passion to only the Great Beloved Friend, we fulfil the verse that appears later in our portion:
Shemot 29: 41. You will offer a sweet scent, an offering by fire to the Lord.
42. This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the Tent of Meeting before the Lord; where I will meet you, to speak there to you.
úÌÇÍòÂùÆÉäÎìÌÈäÌ ìÀøÅéçÇ ðÄéçÉçÇ àÄùÌÑÆä ìÇÍéäåÉÈÍä: îá òÉìÇú úÌÈîÄéã ìÀãÉøÉúÅéëÆí ôÌÆúÇç àÍÉäÆìÎîåÉòÅã ìÄôÀðÅé éÀäåÉÈä àÂùÑÆø àÄåÌÈòÅã ìÈëÆí ùÑÈîÌÈä ìÀãÇáÌÅø àÅìÆéêÈ ùÑÈÍí
Close your eyes for a moment (I know that's dangerous this time of night, but just for a moment). Imagine in front of you what I'm describing: The oil pressed from the olive tree of Israel, the olives pressed by the weight of passionate love for God, flowing pure and golden, and lit by the candle of commandment and the light of Torah. The flame shines on the golden flow of oil as it burns; we leap up bright, pure and holy, ready to join with the great hot flame of our Beloved Friend.
Who is the fire, how shall he be burnt? Rather, we are not burnt, but become part of the great Light, an offering made by fire, made of fire, to God, an offering of one's deepest passion. It is a continual burnt offering to God... and so God says to us, "I will meet you, to speak to you there."
Open your eyes now. Here before you burns the candle of mitzvah: the candles of shabbat. Shabbat is our love song for God. It is the moment of the week in which we have the opportunity to be öåøá, on fire for God. We start shabbat with a flame, and end it with a torch, a three-wicked candle of havdalah. The rest of the week, it 's often difficult to live as thought God were our great passion, our Beloved Friend. But on shabat, there is nothing else to do. We are obligated to stop everything else, and simply burn, a holy flame, to leap up in joy and join the great pure flame of God's love. And if we are able to do this, then as our portion tells us, we will "be a continual burnt offering throughout [our] generations... where [God} will meet [us] there."
May we all be inspired by the flames of Shabat, to make God our great love. May we live shabbat with passion, purity and holiness.