Out of the Muck

 It is the nature of every person to error, but only the fool perseveres in error.  –Marcus Tullius Cicero


The Torah goes into some detail as to the design, construction and lighting of the Candelabrum, the seven-branched Menorah, which stood in the Sanctuary and was lit by the Priests. It was made of pure gold, of one piece, and it had to be lit using pure olive oil.

Many analogies have been composed that relate the Jewish people to the olive oil; how the olives give their oil under pressure; how the oil doesn’t mix with anything else; how it rises to the top.

The Sfat Emet in 5635 (1875) suggests a different comparison. He explains that the very first drop of oil to be squeezed out of the olive is pristine, the purest oil. This mirrors the very first act of the Jewish people at the foot of Mount Sinai, when they accepted the Torah with the declaration of “we will do and we will obey.” That first drop of Jewish self-determination revealed a level of faith and loyalty that would serve the Jewish people well for the rest of history.

Our ancestors however, did not retain for long that strong faith. They sinned quickly, seriously and repeatedly: The Golden Calf, the sin of the spies, Korach’s rebellion and even more, once we entered the Land of Israel.

The Sfat Emet compares the subsequent sins to oil mixed with olive dregs. It’s dirty. It’s unpleasant. It’s second rate. However, even that type of oil can be separated from the dregs.  In the merit of the first pure drop, all of Israel, all of us, have the possibility of separating ourselves from our errors of the past and raising ourselves to levels that can illuminate the world around us.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the Jacob House Youth Hostel of Punta del Este. It is incredible that young Israelis have to come to the other end of the planet to experience their first Shabbat meal. Kol Hakavod (no good translation, literally means “all of the honor”, but meant as a mix between congratulations and job well done) for an extremely important service.



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