Exodus 27:20 -30:10
This week’s portion Tetzaveh opens with instructions for the Israelites to bring clear olive oil from beaten olives for lighting the menorah. Beaten olives are a special preparation that was meant to release the oil. Harvesting was done by first beating the trees with a stick so that the olives would fall to the ground and break releasing some of the oil. Large cloths were placed underneath the tree to catch the beaten olives. They were wrapped up and then crushed again by millstones. This is the first pressing of the oil and the oil used in the ancient temple. This oil helps the menorah shine through the tabernacle and bring a light of God’s presence to the Israelites.
We also celebrate Purim on Saturday night and Sunday. The light of God’s presence hovers in this story although not made explicit in the Book of Esther. God’s name is never mentioned in the Megillah of Esther. But clearly our ancestors understood that it was through the power and glory and light of God that Esther was able to speak the truth to her husband, King Ahasuerus about the plot to kill Jews. Through the Divine light of God that flowed through Esther, she brought illumination to a situation that had potential to destroy the Jewish people. Esther’s courage to confront the evil Haman and his murderous plan is a triumph of light over darkness.
Esther’s courage is inspirational. In our own time we too need to shine the Divine light into dark corners of our world. That is our responsibility and our call. Whether we shine the light on issues of poverty and injustice here at home or we shine the light on places like the murderous intentions of some in Uganda to codify the killing of gay people, we have a task to repair our world and bring that Divine light to shine. Many branches of the menorah united on a single stem to illumine the world. That is our call. May we hear it and be that light.