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A WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

by Avi Lowenstein    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Now you shall command the Children of Israel that they shall take for you pure, pressed olive for illumination, to kindle the lamp continually" (Exodus 27:20).

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Now you shall command the Children of Israel that they shall take for you pure, pressed olive for illumination, to kindle the lamp continually" (Exodus 27:20).

The Ba'al Haturim, a 14th century commentator known for his exegetical and Masoretic interpretations of Biblical text, finds a fascinating hidden message beneath the surface of this verse. The numerical equivalency (gematria) of the Hebrew word "tetzaveh" meaning "command" is the same as that of the Hebrew phrase "nashim tzivah" translated loosely as "command the women." (In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is assigned a corresponding number. Many intricacies and nuances in the Torah are revealed by comparing the numerical value of words.) This, suggests the Ba'al Haturim, is a hint to the commandment for women to light Shabbat candles on Friday night. A seemingly logical question arises from this understanding: Why does the Torah choose to tell us about lighting Shabbat candles at the beginning of this week's Torah portion where it discusses the laws regarding the menorah's oil? What is the connection between the two lightings?

In last week's Haftorah, we read that the windows of King Solomon's Temple were extraordinary. Usually, the windows of a person's house are wider on the outside than on the inside, in order to draw the light in. Conversely, the windows of the Temple, Hashem's house, were wider on the inside, so that the light shining from the menorah was illuminated to the world.

The lighting of the Shabbat candles brings peace to the Jewish home. But how do a few flames achieve such a monumental feat? It is true that their light may physically illuminate our household, preventing unnecessary accidents which could lead to impatience and arguments, but most of us leave electrical lights on during Shabbat which could avoid this dilemma. There must be something else, some other quality, about these candles that brings peace to the Jewish home.

Perhaps, by strategically placing a hint to the Shabbat candles by the discussion of the menorah's oil, the Torah is revealing to us that special unique quality of the Shabbat flames. Since they are juxtaposed, when we see the illumination of the Shabbat candles, we can imagine the oil of the menorah and its light. We can imagine the windows of the Temple which gave out the menorah's brilliant light to the world. It is then that we will look into ourselves and try to emulate the menorah's unique trait by becoming givers -- just as the menorah and the Temple gave out light instead of taking it in.

When we strive to be givers our interpersonal relationships improve and peace between humanity inevitably ensues. Witnessing the sparks of the Shabbat candles on a weekly basis thus reminds us of an essential component to achieving peace with others: the attribute of giving.

After all, the root of the Hebrew word "ahava" meaning "love" is "hav" meaning to "give". This lesson, although stressed by the Shabbat candles on Friday night, requires practice throughout the duration of the week. Therefore, whenever we encounter windows, we can be reminded of the windows of the Temple and the importance of being givers.

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Avi Lowenstein, a native Atlantan, is currently a junior at the Yeshiva High School of Atlanta.

You are invited to read more Parshat Tetzaveh articles.

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