Parshat Emor: Jewish Festivals and Daily Routine
Rabbanit Batya and Rabbi Yehuda Strul are Straus-Amiel shlichim in Tucuman, Argentina, where Yehuda is the community’s deputy rabbi and Batya is the Jewish Day School principal
In our portion, God says to Moshe: “Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.” This verse relates to the commandment given to the People of Israel to prepare pure olive oil for the daily lighting of the Menorah.
When the Torah uses the imperative form, it usually does so to prompt us to fulfill the mitzva properly and without delay. In this case, the choice of words is somewhat baffling. Why would we need special encouragement when it comes to bringing olive oil to light the Menorah? After all, when the People of Israel were required to donate things for the erection of the Mishkan, the Torah used words denoting request rather than instruction, even though in that particular instance the Israelites were required to bring silver, gold and other materials of great value. Why, then, when it comes to the donation of inexpensive olive oil, does the Torah have to give an explicit commandment, and hasten the People to act?
Furthermore, the commandment to bring olive oil is mentioned in close proximity to the portion which relates the Festivals of Israel. Are these two topics related?
On September 6th, 2021, six dangerous terrorists escaped from one of the most secure prisons. Thank God, following extensive searches they were apprehended and reincarcerated. These terrorists managed an extraordinary feat – they escaped from the most secure prison in Israel. How did they pull it off?
The answer is a simple one, but it can teach us an invaluable lesson: For months on end the six terrorists dug and dug with the only thing they had – a spoon. Every day they dug a little deeper until they had dug out an underground tunnel, 22 meters in length, and were finally able to set themselves free. If anyone had seen them digging out little bits with an eating spoon in the hope of escaping, they would have taken them for mad. Surely, they could never succeed in this fashion. The lesson that can be learned from this is that that the only way to succeed is by persevering, and taking one baby step at a time until the ultimate goal is achieved.
The Jewish Festivals are extremely important days which enable us to come closer to God, reinforce our faith and recharge our batteries, plus some. Immediately following the significant portion relating all the Jewish Festivals, the Torah commands us to “burn a continual light”, a seemingly insignificant and negligible instruction. The reason for this is that despite the great importance of the unique days of festivity, let us not forget that true success can only be achieved through daily perseverance; real growth takes place through daily routine. We oftentimes underestimate the important of little habitual tasks. Our Yetzer Hara, the little devil inside of us, is well aware of the significance of routine. For this very reason, it tries to strike precisely there, in the hope of making us fail. Hence, the Torah commands us and prompts us to bring the olive oil. It may be a simple request, but it is an unceasing commandment.
As shlichim in various communities, our duties are divided between routine tasks and special missions. It goes without saying that special activities, such as Hannukah and Purim parties, are extremely important; however, simple routine activities – giving a Torah shiur, holding the prayer services – are equally important and should be endorsed with no less fervor than the bigger events. This is no easy feat precisely because these activities are habitual and routine. But with God’s help we are sure to succeed.
Tucuman is a small city in northern Argentina, with a Jewish community comprising some 2000 Jews. Despite its small size and the great distance from Buenos Aires (which boasts a big Jewish center), in recent years the community is constantly getting bigger, thank God, with more and more Jews coming closer to their Jewish roots.