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D’var Torah - Tetzaveh

From our Hebrew School Director Liora Ramati

Last week, after Valentine’s Day I went to visit my shoemaker to fix one of my favorite shoes since I am not willing to part from them quite yet. When I came in, there were two beautiful flower arrangements and a box of strawberries dipped in chocolate on the table. I asked Maggy, the owner, if she got the flowers for valentine’s day and she said that it was also for her birthday since it falls on the same day. I was wondering if she took the day off for her special day and when I asked, she answered – “No, I don’t know how to do that, that is what I saw at home, my parents worked all the time”.

I’ve known Maggy for many years, through ups and downs, after she lost her husband who started their business and yet she decided to continue running it on her own, after her store burned to the ground and still, she found the strength to open a new place to start again, after dealing with her own daughter’s fight with cancer and helping her winning the battle. How fitting that this strong woman is helping other people to keep on walking in their shoes, after so much use, keeping them comfortable so they can keep on going.

It made me think about the power of our parents and what they instill in us. Maggy saw her parents work hard all their life and she continued in their path, it was stronger than her, it was the natural thing to do. It was part of her DNA. This is probably how, no matter what hardships came her way, she continued working. So now I was reflecting on my own experiences at my house growing up, seeing my dad working very hard and understanding how it became a part of who I am as well. To prove it, I have my own daughters who often ask me: “Ima, how many jobs do you have now?”
I wonder, is that what I want to pass to my kids? The DNA of hard work?

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov has a beautiful quote: “Mitzvah Gedola lihiyot besimcha, tamid: it is a great mitzvah to be happy always”!
This is what I want my daughters to take from me, carry in their life and pass to their children and beyond: Eternal Happiness! The happy gene!
Does it mean that they won’t experience sad moments? Of course they will, it’s part of life, but happiness is a decision we make every day when we wake up. It’s what living in gratitude means, always seeing the half glass full. Always meaning Tamid!
This week’s Torah portion is called Tetzaveh. It comes in perfect order after the Torah portion of Teruma when we learn about how to build our “Traveling Temple” and now we go deeper, from learning about the Aron – the Ark of light to Aharon – adding to the word Aron the letter Hey to create the name of the priest, The one who is responsible to keep the light alive – The Ner Tamid: The eternal light!


So now as we dive deeper, we can imagine the Ark: Aron ha-kodesh as our body, our sacred temple and Aaron representing our light. I think this is why the portion starts with the verse: “and you shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling the Ner Tamid (the eternal light).”
Our sages tried to interpret this verse through this sentence: “Ad shtehe hashalevet Ola mehelia”: until the flame rises on its own! Until its strong enough to hold itself!
The Torah mentions a Ner Tamid – candle and not Or Tamid – light. Why is that? We must get to the source of things: Ner represents the Mitzvah and Or the Torah. By following and doing Mitzvot we keep the light of the Torah alive. It’s the power of the candle to pass the light to other sources without diminishing its own light and that is exactly the job of a parent. Pass the torch to their kids so they can keep the flame alive through generations to come even after they lose the source, they are strong enough to hold it on their own.


The Torah doesn’t mention Moses’ name as it always does, it chooses to say YOU instead! Maybe it’s because G-d is talking to all of us, telling us to instruct our kids and the generations to come, to bring to themselves, pure oil, to light our inner light – our happiness, for eternity.
What does it mean clear oil of beaten olives? The Israelites are like the fruit of the olive tree after we are beaten, not pressed or crushed. Meaning that we experience hardship, but we still have some juice in us enough to shine through and feel happy.
What is that oil – Shemen Lamahor – It is the first squeezed drop of oil that has the qualities to maintain us burning and going while shining light.


The Torah was given to us to provide us with happiness, as it’s said in Psalms 97: “Or Zaruah Latzadid, uleishrei lev Simcha”: A light shines on the righteous and the upright have a happy heart!

Aaron Hakohen had many good qualities to be the one to receive the power of keeping and passing the light. It is not surprising then that this power is registered in the DNA of the Priests. Scientist have discovered a gene which can be traced from Aaron, the first priest of the Jewish people, to a segment of all the Jewish population today which carries the priestly lineage. The nation of Israel’s priestly class, which is passed down from father to son, began with Aaron.

I began today my D’var with a story about a shoemaker, but in Tetzaveh, which is dedicated for the most part to describing the priest’s clothes, there is no mention of any shoes. The Torah describes eight clothing articles:
The ephod, the breastplate, the robe, the tunic, the turban, the belt, the crown, and pants yet, the only item missing is the shoes. The priest is barefoot when he stands before G-d, just as Moses was when he saw G-d for the first time in the burning bush.
What does that mean? I want to think that we need to keep ourselves grounded as we are instructed to rise to bring light (lehahlot Esh) and remember that we are not perfect even as parents who only have good intentions when we raise our kids and try to instill in them good morals, hard work and even happiness. As I was writing my D’var I realized that this Torah portion teaches us about imperfection. Starting with the beaten olives and ending with the instructions relating to the Mizbeach, the alter. After all Aaron’s main role as the head of the priesthood, was to conduct the worship process and once a year on Yom kippur, the day of atonement, he was the one to sacrifice in order to expiate his own sins and those of the people of Israel. Therefor he had to walk barefoot since it showed to all of us that even he wasn’t perfect.


May we find strength as we go through life with all it has to give and take from us with our hands high to reach the eternal candle and keep the fire burning for all generations. Amen!


Beth Moshe Congregation is filled with generations of South Florida families with roots and traditional values. 

2225 NE 121 Street, North Miami, Florida 33181

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