Bits of Torah Truths, פרשת תצוה, Parashat Tetzaveh, The Lord Inspires our Pursuit of Holiness


The Torah Portion for this week opens saying, Shemot / Exodus 27:20 וְאַתָּ֞ה תְּצַוֶּ֣ה ׀ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וְיִקְח֨וּ אֵלֶ֜יךָ שֶׁ֣מֶן זַ֥יִת זָ֛ךְ כָּתִ֖ית לַמָּא֑וֹר לְהַעֲלֹ֥ת נֵ֖ר תָּמִֽיד׃ You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly. This verse speaks of bringing clear oil of beaten olives as a perpetual commandment. Here the word זָ֛ךְ is an adjective defined to mean “pure, clean, clear” which is used as a reference to שֶׁמֶן זַךְ‎ (“pure oil”). What is the difference between pure/clear/clean oil as opposed to and impure/unclear/unclean oil? Is it possible to produce oil from olives that is not pure? Rashi on Shemot / Exodus 27:20 Part 2 states the following, “כתית BEATEN — he pounds the olives in a mortar and must not grind them in a mill, so that there may be no lees; and after he has thus extracted the first drop of oil he may bring them into the mill and grind them. The second oil (that obtained by grinding) is unfitted for use in the candelabrum but is permissible for the meal-offerings (which had to be mingled with oil) since it is said here, “Beaten for the light”, and hence it is not essential that it should be beaten for the meal-offerings (Menachot 86a; cf. Rashi on Exodus 29:40).” Rashi speaks of crushing the olives to produce oil as opposed to grinding up the olives. Rabbeinu Bahya, Shemot 27:20 Parts 5-7 also speaks of pressing the olives to produce oil as opposed to grinding. The separation process that is approved for the service of God is pressing in order to extract the oil. The words “they shall take for you,” meant that this instruction applied immediately. The rabbis believe it was necessary to write these words as we might have misunderstood, seeing that at the end of verse 21 this commandment is described as חקת עולם, “an ongoing or everlasting statute,” which is not subject to change. The Torah describes the words “olive oil” to exclude any other kind of oil. The reason the Torah specifies the grade of olive oil, i.e. זַ֥יִת זָ֛ךְ, was to let us know it was to be from the first part of the oil extracted from the olives. The word כָּתִ֖ית, pressed, was to tell us that the olives were to be squeezed or crushed in order to extract the oil. Any oil which simply oozed out of the olives without their having been crushed first was not acceptable. The idea was that this oil required intentional effort to produce. Pressing the olives required the intention of adding weight and paying attention to the detail in regard to the quality of oil that was produced. Rabbeinu Bahya continues saying, “A Midrash points out that the numerical value of the word כתית is 830, suggesting the combined number of years that the first and second Temples were standing, i.e. 410 and 420 years respectively, in that order. Perhaps the Midrash was concerned only with the Temples whose function was limited in time, whereas the third Temple which will endure indefinitely did not concern the author as the word כתית, another word for “destroyed,” most certainly would not apply to the third Temple. Perhaps the third Temple is alluded to in the word למאור, “as illumination,” seeing that the redemption and what follows have been characterized by the prophet Isaiah 60,1 as אור, light, when he wrote: “Arise, shine, for your light has dawned, etc.” There are more such verses such as Tehillim / Psalms 27,1: ‘G’d is my light and my salvation,’ or Psalms 118,27: ‘the Lord is G’d and He lights up for me.’” The idea is to the illumination of one’s life by the command which is paralleled to the descending of the glory of God upon His people. The rabbis say the glory of the Temple of God is found in the root of the commandment of God. Paul wrote that our bodies are the Temple of God because the Spirit of God dwells within us. He states, 3:17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (NASB) We are called holy, set apart, and therefore holiness is a requirement for God’s people. The author of Hebrews wrote “Without holiness no one can see God.” (Hebrews 12:14) We are made holy in the commandments through the practice of holiness and in the Messiah Yeshua. As we mature in the faith holiness increases because we learn how to apply God’s Word to our lives. To be holy means that we are set apart for honorable use. Paul writes

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 6:10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 6:11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (NASB)

Titus 3:3-6
3:3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 3:4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 3:6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, (NASB)

Note that salvation is not based upon the deeds, but upon the Lord God who moves in the heart of the one who obeys His commandments. This illustrates for us how the Lord has pulled us out of our former lifestyle, and cleansed us and set us apart for righteousness. Paul also wrote elsewhere (Romans 12:2) that we have been set apart as holy, set apart from this world for godliness. It is our faith in the Messiah that begins this pursuit of holiness in our lives to walk in God’s ways. The Lord God Almighty, our Father in heaven, sets us in a state of holiness in His Son Yeshua the Messiah, and then we are put upon the path of practical holiness in which we must actively pursue. The Lord expects us to cultivate a lifestyle of holiness (1 Peter 1:14-16) and commands us to “cleanse ourselves of all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) What Paul is saying about bringing holiness to “perfection” means that we should be increasing in spiritual fruitfulness every day. We consider ourselves dead to sin (Romans 6:11), and refuse to turn back to our former lifestyles. We take the commandments of God and apply them to our lives and it is in this way we “cleanse ourselves from what is dishonorable,” becoming vessels for “honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master for every good work.” (see 2 Timothy 2:21) Holiness and obedience to the commandments are the mark of every true believer (see 1 John 3:9-10).