Published February 2016.
Shabbos Drasha, Parshas Tetzaveh
This week’s Parsha starts off by telling us “V’yikche aylechu shemen zeis zoch” to take pure olive to burn in the lamp continuously. We see the Torah instructing us in a chronological order. In last week’s parsha it gives the exact details and the intricate measurements on how to build the Mishkan – the Tabernacle. Now that we have the Mishkan up and standing, we are told on who should be the ones to Minister in it, to do the Avodah. In the first part of this week’s Parsha we go through the details on how to make the vestments for the children of Ahron, the Kohanim, on how they should dress while doing the services. It goes on to describe the Cho’shen – breastplate and Tzitz – head plate of the Kohen Godol among the other items. After the portion of R’ivei, now that we have the Mishkan standing and we know who will be doing the Avodah in it, the Torah goes on to instruct us how the services are to be performed, exactly how many rams, how many bulls, sheep, unleavened loafs, etc.
The Iben Ezra explains, that even before the Torah tell us that the bnei Ahron will be the ones to do the services, it tell us we must have ” shemen zeis zoch” pure olive oil. We can only use the first press of oil from the olives, the second pressing is not permitted since other particles come out and it is not pure oil anymore. He goes on to ask, why can’t we just filter the oil to remove any impurities and then the oil will be pure. The Iben Ezra says it comes to teach us, if anyone wants to minister to the people or become its leaders, he must be pure in his efforts and must be doing it solely for the sake of Hashem and his people. Just like the oil must be pure so must the leader be pure in his efforts. There can be no ulterior or personal motives involved.
This past week a clip that went viral and received many thousands of hits, seemed to touch a nerve by many. The clip was from the singer Lipa Schmeltzer, who has a segment called “Sheni V’Chamishi” basically interpreted as Monday and Thursday, where he puts on some funny glasses or caps and delivers a 2 minute thought on various subjects. This week he sang the old chasssdic song of “Oh Rebbe, Rebbe, Rebbe how I yearn to get close to you… close to you ” Then he added, sure I want to get close to you….I want to be from one of the chassidim who gets onto your PRIVATE JET and heads down to FLORIDA with you.
This new phenomenon where Rebbes started traveling by private Jets, is a total waste of money that can and SHOULD be used for better purposes. Now… I think most people will agree a leader or Rebbe should have a nice comfortable home if they so wish. They are still human, and every person including all of us, enjoys a comfortable home. Chazal tells us, a nice home make a person feel at ease and relaxed. They also deserve a decent car, however, the round multi-color flashing lights are not a necessity. In Williamsburg where I grew up, they are called “lollypop lights” by the children – as they can brag, “my Rebbe has 3 lollypop lights on his car, and yours has only one”. As if to say, more flashing lights makes a Rebbe holier. I also think most of us will agree, they should travel first class, as they are leaders and it is definitely more comfortable. However, they do not have to buy out the whole first class section so they won’t have to sit anywhere near strangers. Again, a waste of good money that can be used for better purposes.
In the latest trip by to Israel and elsewhere, by a Rebbe with a large following we see the many pictures of him walking up to his private Jet with chassidim hanging in and out of it. His Brother also a Rebbe, while vacationing in Arizona, as he with met another Rebbe there, asked him how he flew in, after being answered, he proceeded to say how he himself flew in. Rebbes discussing what kind of planes they fly? What kind of example are they showing? Contrast this to Reb Moshe Feinstien zt’l or the Rimnitzer Rebbe Zt’l . Imagine someone told Reb Moshe, I Paid for a private plane for you, what Reb Moshe would answer him. Also contrast this with the late Lubavitcher Rebbe zt’l, when someone bought him a new stretch limo, as he traveled to his father in law’s grave and back. When the Rebbe saw the limo, the person who bought it stood nearby, thinking the Rebbe will thank him, however, the Rebbe spread out his 2 hands and told the person he doesn’t need it, saying, such a big car…what was wrong with the smaller car? The chossid thinking that the Rebbe does not want a big car, had the stretch cut back down to normal size. The next time the Rebbe saw the car, he got annoyed and scolded the person why he is “wasting money”.
This private Jet business is spreading to other Rebbes, as if to say, if so and so can travel private jet, so can I…is he a bigger Rebbe then me? Here is a different problem; these small privet jets are not as comfortable as the big Boeing 200 passenger planes. I have a friend that made it in the corporate world and told me, even though many times he has to travel on these private jets to make it to corporate meetings, whenever he could he flies first class as it is so much more comfortable. He can get up, stretch, walk around and the seats recline all the way back. When a small jet hits turbulence you get very nauseas. If the weather was bad while flying he is exhausted at the meeting. Here the Rebbes cannot claim it is more comfortable, or they have to catch an emergency meeting etc. it is for just one purpose only – Bragging rights….as if to say “here travels an important person”.
I would like to add to the Iban Ezer, that when the Torah says it has to be pure olive oil, it also says the word tomid – always. We see leaders and Rebbes that started out with good and noble intentions, they just want to help people. When asked what they need, they say, just a table, a chair, some food etc, all they want is to serve Klal Y’siroel, and as for themselves they need nothing more than the basics. However, as time goes along and people starts flocking to them, kissing their hands and telling them how great they are, the bug of personal prestige and comfort creeps in and it is not so “pure oil” anymore. However, they can claim, but I started out with the right intentions, isn’t that the main thing, the original intentions? Says the torah NO! It must be ‘Tomid” – always, even if it was once pure and then some impurities get in, the oil cannot be used in the Mishkan anymore.
In reality this is the famous argument going back among the great philosophers, where Aristotle argues and disagrees with Socrates who was his teacher (Plato’s) teacher. Socrates claims in his allegory, we are living in a cave where we are all chained down to a chair facing the back wall and cannot turn around. All we see are shadows of light and dark, we do see the “light” but cannot fully grasp it as it is only shadows. Should there be one person who was able to break free and went outside and saw the light fully and then comes back into the cave, we are to follow him blindly – for HE saw the light, and he is the one who knows what is good and what is bad. Aristotle argues with him, yes this person saw the light and comes back and tells the people what is right and wrong with good and true intentions, but over time this new found power over people will eventually corrupt him and he can then lead the people astray or use his power to dominate over them. He uses his famous “Giechie” allegory where he argues that man is inherently evil, (what Musser calls ra’ minurov) and must use reason and understanding to do well. Aristotle says better to let people organize themselves in a democratic way, with compassion and freedom for its citizens, using their collective minds as best as they can understand, then throwing their faith in one person, who as a human can get corrupted, which usually comes with power. History shows, when one person has all the power, as we all well know, has proven and shown Aristotle correct.
Let us hope and pray we always have “Sheman Zeis Zoch” – pure olive oil among our leaders.
Shabbos Drasha, Parshas Tetzaveh (PDF)