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The Plan: Dreaming By on


Purifying the Oil VI



“A song of ascents, by David. Behold, how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers, moreover, in unity. Like the precious oil upon the head running down upon the beard of Aaron, running down over his garments, so the dew of Hermon descends upon the mountains of Zion, for there God has commanded the blessing. May there be life forever!” (Psalm 133)

Rav Shlomo Kluger calls our attention to the anointment of Aaron to better understand this Psalm: “Moses took the oil of anointment and anointed the Tabernacle and everything within it. He sprinkled from it seven times upon the Altar; he anointed the Altar and all its utensils, and the laver and its base, in order to sanctify them. He poured from the oil of anointment upon Aaron’s head, and he anointed him to sanctify him.” (Leviticus 8:10-12) Moses first poured the oil upon Aaron before he anointed him, in contrast to the process of anointment of the Tabernacle and its vessels. This is to teach us that Moses first poured the oil on Aaron so that the oil could receive sanctity from Aaron. Only after the oil was sanctified by Aaron, could it be used to anoint him.

He goes on to compare this to a Talmudic concept: R. Hama b. Hanina said: What is the meaning of the verse, “Iron sharpens iron?” (Proverbs 27:17)This is to teach you that just as in the case of one [iron] iron sharpens the other so also do two scholars sharpen each others mind by halachah.

R. Nachman b. Isaac said: Why are the words of the Torah likened to a tree, as it is said, “It is a tree of life to them that grasp it?” (Proverbs 3:18)  This is to teach you. just as a small tree may set on fire a bigger tree so too it is with scholars, the younger sharpen the minds of the older. This will be in agreement with what R. Chanina said: I have learnt much from my teachers, and from my colleagues more than from my teachers, but from my disciples more than from them all. (Ta’anit 7a)

Rav Kluger explains that the Talmud is describing a process in which both parties receive from each other, just as the oil received from Aaron before it gave back to him by anointing him. This is why the Psalm begins with, “How good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers, moreover, in unity,” meaning, two people who dwell together, both giving to, and receiving from the other, just as the oil and Aaron gave to, and received from, the other.

The small jar of oil, enough for only one day, found by the Chashmonaim, by burning for eight days was functioning just as the oil poured over Aaron: It gave the Chashmonaim hope, and it was empowered by their determination to act beyond their limitations. The oil and the Chashmonaim both, gave to, and received from, the other.

We can only prepare for Chanukah, and the miracle of the oil, by understanding that this miracle is a give and take; it is not that we sit back and wait for miracles to happen, but that we act expansively to empower the miracles we need.

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