Tetzaveh: Crushed for the Light Finding the heart

Jeffrey Levine
6 min readFeb 21, 2024

Tetzaveh: Crushed for the Light Finding the heart

Suffering is nothing new to Jewish people or Jewish history. And we, since October 7th, have had our fair share of suffering. In our generation, after being protected in some way, facing this suffering the evil is unbearable.

And we ask the old-age question, why do bad things happen to good people?

The question touches the depth of the soul. And in looking for inspiration, I like to look at what Rabbi Sacks wrote, and we can adapt his words to our situation, to provide some sort of comfort.

“Rabbi Sacks brings a powerful story about Henry who believed that God had spared him from Hitler for a purpose. He had given Henry business success for a purpose also. I never heard him attribute any of his achievements to himself. For whatever went well, he thanked God. For whatever did not go well, the question he asked was simply. What does God want me to learn from this? What, now that this has happened, does He want me to do? That mindset had carried hit through the good years with humility. Now it carried him through the painful years with courage.

Our parsha begins with the words: “Command the Israelites to bring you clear olive oil, crushed for the light, so that the lamp may always burn” (Ex. 27:20). The Sages drew a comparison between the olive and the Jewish people:

R. Yehoshua ben Levi asked, why is Israel compared to an olive? Just as an olive is first bitter, then sweet, so Israel suffers in the present but great good is stored up for them in the time to come. And just as the olive only yields its oil by being crushed — as it is written, “clear olive oil, crushed for the light” — so Israel fulfils [its full potential in] the Torah only when it is pressed by suffering.³

The oil was, of course, for the Menora, whose perpetual light — first in the Sanctuary, then in the Temple, and now that we have no Temple, the more mystical light that shines from every holy place, life, and deed — symbolises the divine light that floods the universe for those who see it through the eyes of faith. To produce this light, something has to be crushed. And here lies the life-changing lesson.

Suffering is bad. Judaism makes no attempt to hide this fact. The Talmud gives an account of various sages who fell ill. When asked, “Are your sufferings precious to you?” they replied, “Neither they nor their reward.”* When they befall us or someone close to us, they can lead us to despair. Alternatively, we can respond stoically. We can practise the attribute of gevura, strength in adversity. But there is a third possibility. We can respond as Henry responded, with compassion, kindness, and love. We can become like the olive which, when crushed, produces the pure oil that fuels the light of holiness.

When bad things happen to good people, our faith is challenged That is a natural response, not a heretical one. Abraham asked, “Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?” (Gen. 18:25). Moses asked, “Win have You done harm to this people?” (Ex. 5:22). Yet in the end, the wrong question to ask is, “Why has this happened?” We will never know. We are not God, nor should we aspire to be. The right question is, “Given that this has happened, what then shall I do?” To this, the answer is not a thought but a deed. It is to heal what can be healed, medically in the case of the body, psychologically in the case of the mind, spiritually in the case of the soul. Our task is to bring light to the dark places of our and other people’s lives.

That is what Henry did. When his wife Renata fell and suffered. So did he. But their spirit prevailed over their body. Crushed, they radiated light. Let no one imagine this is easy. It takes a supreme act of faith. Yet it is precisely here that we feel faith’s power to change lives. Great faith can turn pain into love and holy light.

Life-Changing Idea #20

When you experience suffering, the question to ask is, “Given this has happened, what then shall I do?” for this has an answer not of thought but of deed.”

We saw that on the 7th of October and the events thereafter with so many deeds of bravery, selfless actions, and willingness and desire by our people to serve and fight this Evil.

And here we bring the challenge and opportunity of God. The Mishkan was known as a project of deeds, a re-building of the nation’s mission and heart.

And these soldiers are putting our Nation and God first.

Here I want to re-look at what I wrote last year.

Putting God First — Part 1

This headline was posted on my LinkedIn feed.

The questions we can ask.

Do we put God first?

Why and what does this mean?

This Parsha continues with the Mishkan, a building, a place where seek to connect to God. This is the prototype of our Shuls, Churches, Mosques, and houses of prayer.

We seek to connect to a higher power. Why? We seek to find meaning in life.

This blog will not focus on why we are not always inspired by going to Shul. I will leave that to another blog.

We are commanded to love a God we can not see or feel the impact.

We need to be conscious (have gratitude) of the gift of life, health, wealth, and have empathy for others and especially the poor, the stranger, and the widow.

We are involved in a materialistic world, with structures and ceremonies.

The Mishkan itself is involved in ascetics, ceremonies, clothing and procedures.

Our shuls and life mirror with these motifs.

Wisdom of the Heart

“And you shall speak to all the wise-hearted people” (Sh’mos 28:3)

When G-d speaks to Moshe and asks for the garments of the priests to be prepared, he calls for those who have ‘“chochmas halev” ‘wisdom of the heart.’ What is this wisdom that is in the heart? What’s the difference between that and the wisdom of the mind?

We were commanded to give with our hearts.

So, what is the heart of Judaism?

The heart of Judaism is the community. The community is made up of families and in the centre of this is the Shul.

When writing about the Heart, I was reminded of the fundraising campaign of Daughters Yishuv of Keren Reim.

I am sharing with you a moving video in English — “The Heart”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdkcCoSiJXo

The video is very moving and is titled The Heart

And what is the Heart?

The community, the families, and the meeting place and house of worship. A place to nurture the next generation.

A community where God is put first, a community of helping each other, a place of friendship and caring.

These yIshivim are indeed an inspiration, a place where the eternal values of Torah and connection to our biblical homeland can spread the light of God.

(and contract this the Biden, The UK, France etal blood libel of these settlers of our biblical heartland)

Putting God first — Part 2

Putting God first — What does this mean?

Simply, it means that there is a greater power. It requires me to ask — what is this world about?

Certainly, there is much confusion, uncertainty, and conspiracy theories made worse by Covid19 impact. If before COVID-19, we thought we were free; this was an illusion. After Covid19, and the imposition of world martial law, we are not free. At best, we are slaves to the system — capitalism, taxes, work, loans etc. I know this sounds very negative. Let’s not even go down on the hypocrisy of the Covid restrictions and vaccinations, but I want to look the hypocrisy of Climate Change and the UN SDGs.

I admit I have embraced ESG and Climate Change based on the UNSDGs. I am promoting initiatives based on this. Does this mean I should give it up? Is it just a bluff, a greenwashing? Is this just another money-making scheme?

How do we put God first?

I believe that we need to put these Judaic or Abrahamic Values of kindness, and morals back into the discussion.

This war is being fought physically, politically, and online as a War of Values. It is a war where are fighting an axis of Evil, lies, moral confusion and false narratives.

It is also a War about our Hearts. The heart of Israel as a Jewish Nation and the hearts of Jews worldwide.

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Jeffrey Levine

Jeffrey Levine provides CFO, Director, ESG Advisory Services through www.persofi.com and is a promoter of ideas and trends where Innovation meets ESG