The discussion of the construction of the Mishkan continues with Parshas Tetzaveh. While Parshas Terumah dealt with the physical construction of the Mishkan and its utensils, Tetzaveh deals with the clothing of the Kohanim. However, before the parsha gets into that, it opens with one more item which seemingly belongs in last week’s parsha.
“ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך כתית למאור להעלת נר תמיד. באהל מועד מחוץ לפרכת אשר על העדת” “And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the lamps continuously. In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the testimony (they shall set up the lights)” (Shemos 27:20-21). These pesukim are discussing the obligation to prepare pure olive oil to be used for the Menorah, which will be continuously lit, twenty-four hours a day. However, the Menorah was discussed in Terumah along with the other utensils. How come the oil wasn’t discussed then as well?
The Kli Yakar adds several other questions. How come Hashem has to specifically say to Moshe, “And you shall command the children of Israel?” No other command passed through Moshe uses this language; it’s almost as if this commandment was made specifically for Moshe! Also, why does the pasuk use the word נר, in the singular, in the pasuk? (Grammatically, this is good enough to translate into a plural reference.) The Menorah had seven lights! Furthermore, the Menorah was not constantly lit; there was a small time period around nightfall when the lights would go out and the Kohen would relight it then. So why does the pasuk say they were continuously lit?
In order to answer all of these questions, the Kli Yakar begins with a Ramban (ibid.) who explains that in reality, only one of the lights of the Menorah was constantly lit. Through a miracle, it would remain lit even after the other lights went out. The Kohen would fill up all seven lights with oil, and light the extinguished six lights from the miracle seventh. This is why the pasuk uses the word נר in the singular, because only one light was actually constantly lit.
Based on this, we can answer our other questions. The Mishkan was divided into three sections, the Kodesh HaKedoshim, where the Aron was kept; the Kodesh, where the Menorah, Shulchan, and Golden Mizbe’ach were kept; and the outer courtyard, where the Copper Mizbe’ach stood. Even though the Kodesh HaKedoshim had a higher level of holiness than the other two sections, each section had something within it that showed that Hashem’s presence could be found in each section of the Mishkan. It was important that there was a show of the Shechinah in each section of the Mishkan since almost everyone could not enter the majority of the building.
In the Kodesh, the miracle of this everlasting light showed that Hashem was present. The reason why the mitzvah of the oil was listed immediately after the different utensils of the Mishkan, and specifically after discussing the courtyard structure, was to make this point; no matter which section of the Mishkan, Hashem’s Shechinah could be found there.
There is still one more question to be answered, why was this command specified for Moshe to tell it to the Bnei Yisrael?
Moshe was the greatest Navi who ever lived. His prophecy was so great, Chazal tell us that every prophet who followed him received their prophecy only through him!
is similar to a flame, as many lights as you light from it, it does not lose
even a bit of strength. Furthermore, this miracle light of the Menorah got its’
power from Moshe! When Moshe was born, the house was filled with light. This
light came straight from the supreme light of Hashem and represents Hashem’s
presence in this world. The fact that it came into this world through Moshe showed
that he was the conduit of this light’s transfer into this world. So any sign
of Hashem through light in this world, including the light of the Menorah, was
a result of Moshe.
So, we see that in fact, this commandment was specifically written for Moshe. In recognition of his greatness and his ability to bring the light to us, Hashem gave the commandment to him, that Bnei Yisrael should bring the oil that caused the miracle light to Moshe, the cause of this miracle that showed Bnei Yisrael that Hashem rested in every part of the Mishkan. May we merit soon seeing this great light among us once again!
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