• Rabbi Yonah Burr

Tetzaveh: Teaching Techniques

ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך כתית למאור, להעלת נר תמיד: באהל מועד מחוץ לפרכת אשר על העדת יערך אתו אהרן ובניו מערב עד בקר לפני ד' חקת עולם לדרתם מאת בני ישראל.

Now you shall command the Children of Israel that they shall take for you clear olive oil, crushed for illumination, to kindle a lamp continually. In the Tent of Meeting, outside the Partition that is near the Luchos, Aaron and his sons shall arrange it from evening until morning, before Hashem an eternal decree for their generations.



The Gemara teaches that the olive oil used for the menorah was different from the olive oil used in the flour offerings; the flour offerings were mixed with regular made olive oil, crushed and ground, and then purified- while the oil used for the menorah was extracted through a light squeezing, but not ground, in order to ensure that no sediment was mixed in at all.


Another interesting halacha was that enough oil must be placed in the menorah to ensure that the flames would last through the longest winter night; and even in the summertime the same amount of oil was used.


Another halacha was that when kindling the lights, the Kohen must hold the flame to the wick until the flame is transferred to the wick, and is able to stand strong on its own. He may not remove the lighter and hope that the wick flares up afterward.


We know that the light of the menorah symbolizes the clear light of the Torah. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l sees in these halachos a lesson for anyone in a position to influence and inspire; whether a teacher, parent, or friend.


The purest oil represents that we should strive to teach with the upmost clarity possible. It is our job to explain everything, and not rely on the intellectual capabilities of the student. We should want our lesson to be crystal clear.


The clear oil also speaks to the teacher- we ourselves should teach by example, striving to live as purely and consistently as possible, not having to ‘remove’ and ‘explain’ the sediment afterwards.


Putting in the full amount of oil even for the shorter summer nights represents the “low maintenance” child. Sometimes we feel that we can get away with giving less attention to this child or explaining something less to the gifted child. The menorah teaches us otherwise; we should place just as much oil for the shorter, ‘quicker’ nights, as we do for the longer ones. Even though it may seem that they don’t need as much, we should still strive to give just as much.


And finally, when we try to teach or help someone, our goal should be to enable them to stand on their own. We should give them the life skills and tools to continue their growth independently. As the saying goes, ‘the best teacher renders himself obsolete’. May be all be good role models and teachers for those around us, and continue reaching our own potential!


Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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