Rav Kook On Parshat Tetzaveh: How To Illuminate Life
וְאַתָּ֞ה תְּצַוֶּ֣ה ׀ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וְיִקְח֨וּ אֵלֶ֜יךָ שֶׁ֣מֶן זַ֥יִת זָ֛ךְ כָּתִ֖ית לַמָּא֑וֹר לְהַעֲלֹ֥ת נֵ֖ר תָּמִֽיד׃
You shall further instruct the children of Israel to bring you clear illuminating oil, made from hand crushed olives, to keep the lamp constantly burning.
בְּאֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵד֩ מִח֨וּץ לַפָּרֹ֜כֶת אֲשֶׁ֣ר עַל־הָעֵדֻ֗ת יַעֲרֹךְ֩ אֹת֨וֹ אַהֲרֹ֧ן וּבָנָ֛יו מֵעֶ֥רֶב עַד־בֹּ֖קֶר לִפְנֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֑ה חֻקַּ֤ת עוֹלָם֙ לְדֹ֣רֹתָ֔ם מֵאֵ֖ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
Aaron and his sons shall arrange for the lamps to burn from evening until morning in the presence of YHVH, in the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain which conceals the Ark of Testimony. It is a rule for all time that this oil shall come from the children of Israel.” (Shemot 27:20-21)
The Children of Israel are directed to place and light the Menorah in the Sanctuary outside the Holy of Holies. And to keep this light constantly burning.
Why was this so important and what is its relevance to our time and place? HaRav Yitzchak HaCohen Kook TZ’L was (and is) in many ways the Cohen Gadol-High Priest of the return and rebuilding of Israel in the modern era. He explained the significance of the Menorah’s light being kindled specifically outside the curtain of the Holy of Holies.
“The inner light, the light of Torah, the Ruach HaKodesh-Holy Spirit, flows in Israel from the place of the Holy Temple from where the light emerges [the Holy of Holies]. This is the Divine light that shines in Israel…
The Torah of HaShem also teaches us the pathways of life. Through her, the light also appears in the externals of life. It is thus important for Israel to go forth proudly and become a strong people full of practical wisdom and beauty. This is the unique holiness that elevates Israel to a high level of holy spirit and deep knowledge of Elohim and His Ways.
This unique holiness enables the light to spread outside the Ark of Testimony. This is to teach that from the inner light that is focused on Divine Honor will shine an external light will shine for Israel. This external light will equip Israel with good and beautiful human manners and comfortable and pleasant ways of state and dominion….
This is very necessary so that the world receives testimony and proof that the Shecinah/Divine Presence dwells with Israel.
The connection of the inner light with the outer light enables a relationship for Israel with the entire world. Nations that reach a good level will recognize the glory and the splendor, the holiness and the magnificence that there is in the holy Torah and its ways. They will return to grasp the integrity of the ways of HaShem and the pure knowledge of Elohim will come to be known in the world through the light of Israel….
It is the external light joining the inner light that prepares Israel to kindle and create, together with our holy Torah, a fully developed natural life and a fair and proper national life.
In this external light the nations of the world will see the light that will enable them to know the Divine inner light. Thus will be fulfilled the prophecy that all the people in the world will witness that the Shechina/Divine Presence Dwells with Israel.” (Eyn Aya Shabbat, 2:16)
Kindling the Menorah outside the Holy of Holies enables the inner light of the Divine Presence to shine out brightly into the whole world. The Torah is teaching us here that the historical and planetary significance of Israel is directly connected to Israel’s ability to shine Divine light and ethics into the world.
Rav Kook continuously emphasized that the Israelite return and rebuilding of Israel is in order to establish itself in the world as a pillar of enlightened understanding, behavior and ethics. In this way Israel will become a very positive force for planetary unification, compassion and love.
In an important prophetic 1914 essay,‘ערך התחיה -The Significance Of The Revival’, Rav Kook wrote that: “Out of its inner depths, Israel will again sound the same call that was issued by the rock from which it was hewn [Avraham]. Out of Israel’s awareness of light and happiness, it has a profound compassion for every afflicted soul, for every confused creature, for all the forms of national, social and moral life that are proceeding on paths full of entangling thorns.
This is all because of the absence of an actual living source of light that can reveal to them the yearning which causes the soul of all existence to cry out in pain. This source of light will come to sound the call: ‘Seek me, search after me and live’.
Some who are following dark paths have fabricated imitations with hearts full of hypocrisy and cowardice….This is not the spirit of a mighty nation, an ancient people, a nation that forcefully seeks the light of HaShem and the joy of life….
With an ardent soul, full of life and enduring heroism, Israel will bestir itself and call out: ‘Here is light, here is the voice of the living Elohim calling to us from the depths of our being, here is the light of eternal freedom for all existence. This will come and shine from the light of HaShem on Mount Zion, the place of the valley of vision, where the word of the living El has begun to be heard….”
The world will thus come to know that: “A people has arisen; it has begun to become a nation that will release a flow of Divine life to all worlds. These mighty people have made their way in the stormy sea of history. These people have paved an eternal pathway for the vitality that will again awaken and experience a renewed attachment to Elohim.” (The Significance of the Revival’ -essay in Orot)
“The light of Israel will soon emerge and make its appearance in the world. It will do this after purging itself, with firmness and courage, of the darkness and murkiness that attached themselves to the light because of a lack of self understanding. Then there will at once manifest the precious vision of unity, which integrates all forces [divine, moral, religious, national] into one complete comprehensive phenomenon that leaves intact the particular essence of each one….
The spiritual world in all its dimensions is patterned into one entity so that even the area of religion that abounds in quarrels will become filled with peace and light… [even the area of religion!]
When the spirit attains its climactic perfection, everything will shine together at the same time….” (Fragments of Light, 1910 essay)
At this point in this essay, Rav Kook highlights a very important understanding of how the soon to be experienced worldwide geula-redemption will be much larger and more significant than the exodus from Egypt.
“The renewal of Israel in its thrust toward the future is directed- with all its resources -in a veritably opposite direction from that of the exodus from Egypt.
After all its vessels have been prepared for to become a perfecting influence, Israel will move toward an organic unification with all humanity. The flow of moral strategies during the period of differentiation [when Israel was concerned primarily about itself]– will become the preparatory channel for organic unification.” (Ibid)
Rav Kook wrote these prophetic writings over a century ago when the actual rebirth of Israel was beginning. The current planetary crises-ecological, economic, medical, political, etc.- require a unified solution. Israel must be a strong and clear voice and an active builder of this. It is most necessary for us today to kindle and very brightly shine the Divine light of freedom, unity and morality to the entire world. Then we will merit to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash.
BeeMhera BeYamenu-Immediately In Our Days.
Prepared by Rabbi Itzchak Evan-Shayish, firstname.lastname@example.org , www.haorot.com