The last five portions of the Book of Shemos – Exodus – deal primarily with the Temple that accompanied the Jews while they were traveling in the desert. This includes G-d’s instruction, the people’s donations and the construction of the vessels and components of the Temple.
The Menorah – the seven branched golden ornate candelabra – was the tallest of the vessels in the Temple, and was approximately 5 feet tall.
G-d instructed that the Menorah be hammered and formed from one huge piece of pure gold – nothing could be made separately and then attached.
Moshe couldn’t even comprehend or envision what the Menorah should look like, let alone form it from one piece.
G-d showed Moshe a model of the Menorah in a fiery form, yet it was still too difficult for Moshe to construct. Finally G-d instructed Moshe to cast the mass of gold into a fire and the completed Menorah emerged.
The Maharal of Prague explains that after Moshe was shown what the Menorah should look like, he began working on it even though it seemed to him that it was impossible for him to complete. Once Moshe started working on it, G-d instructed him to cast it into the fire and it was completed through G-d’s miracle.
Maharal explains that this is the way G-d typically performs miracles; man begins by putting forth his effort, and then G-d assists and aids him.
The Menorah had three branches on each side and they emerged from its center stem. The six flames of the six branches faced the center branch. The Menorah symbolized the illumination of G-d’s Torah.
Commentators explain that the six branches of the Menorah also symbolize the six days of the week and the center branch represents Shabbos. We are occupied with our creative work during the six days of the week; on Shabbos we stand back and refrain from our creative efforts and G-d gives His finishing touches and blessings to all our efforts. Just as the Menorah began it construction with Moshe’s efforts and then was finished by G-d, so too, the Shabbos brings the finishing touches to our activity.
Whenever we are faced with a daunting task or endeavor – whether in the spiritual realm, such as to commit oneself to an observance, or to cement or patch up a relationship, or to conquer a bad habit – it would be much easier to give up rather than try. However, we learn from the Menorah to be encouraged to go forward and press on, for G-d will notice our will and determination and will provide His special assistance to help smooth things out so that we can meet our goals.
The Torah begins this week’s portion instructing that the olive oil used to the light the Menorah in the Temple must be in its purest form. This means that it had to be pressed rather than crushed, and the first drop emerging from the olive was used for the lighting of the Menorah.
Why is this so? An answer offered is that the Menorah represents the illumination of our service to G-d, and our service must be pure. This means that a Mitzvah must be done the way G-d prescribed it and wants it done. We cannot do the mitzvah another way even if we may perceive that this is the best way to serve G-d.
The prophet Yirmiyahu compares the beauty of the Jewish people to olive oil. Says the Sefas Emes, that when olive oil is mixed with water, it will eventually float to the top and become separated from the rest of the liquid. So too, Yirmiyahu was zeroing in on the basic and intrinsic quality and disposition of a Jew. No matter how blended they have become in a society, their natural constitution will prevent them from becoming completely amalgamated.
The Torah instructs Aaron to kindle the Menorah by applying the fire to the wick and letting the flame emerge on its own.
The Sefas Emes derives from this that when one is involved in a Mitzvah, the Mitzvah itself generates Heavenly energy. The end result of a Mitzvah is no longer in the earthly realm! It follows from this that since G-d chose us to perform a Mitzvah, we are the conduit to connect with spiritual energy from on High. This spiritual energy is infinite since it is not bound by the limitations of the physical world!
After the nations of the world heard that the Jews were miraculously freed from Egypt and that G-d orchestrated an awesome salvation at the Red Sea, they were spellbound and awed by the Jewish Nation.
Only one nation dared wage war against the Jews, attacking them by surprise. This was the nation of Amalek, named after a grandson of our nemesis Aisav. The nation of Amalek was the precursor of all future attacks against the Jews. For this, the Torah issues a command that we always remember and never forget what Amalek did.
The Shabbat before the Holiday of Purim, which commemorates the plan of Haman, a descendant of Amalek, to kill all the Jews , is specifically designated to read the portion in the rTorah commanding us to remember what Amalek did to us. Therefore this Shabbat is called Shabbat Parshas Zachor – The Shabbat of Remembering.