This week’s Torah portion begins with the commandment to use pure olive oil to light the Menorah. The Menorah symbolized learning. From the next few verses, we learn some very important lessons in Chinuch, in helping our children be ideal receptacles of Torah learning.
The Jews are commanded to use “pure olive oil” to cause the Menorah to “go up always.”
Pure olive oil – the first pressing only is used. The greatness of folks comes through pressure, but not too much pressure. A child who is let to run wild with no responsibilities and no limits, with no pressure whatsoever, will not produce, just as the olive left alone stays an olive, rather than being transformed into oil. Yet, the pressure must be gentle. If the pressing you are doing on the olive causes pieces to fall off, that oil is not used for the Menorah. The pressure on a student should be steady enough to get the student to perform, but never harsh enough to create damage to the student.
“To cause the Menorah to go up” Rashi quotes the Talmud: he kindles until the flame goes up on its own. When we teach children, we are taught to do in a way that the child can then learn independently. If our students need us forever, we haven’t done our job of “lighting them” so that they can “go up”, that they can learn on their own and produce their own thoughts.
“Always” – Rambam – but wasn’t the Menorah only lit during nighttime and by morning was out. The Ner Maaravi – western light was kept lit at all times – it wasn’t actually western placed – it was the center candle of the Menorah. Therefore, there was an “always” element to the lit Menorah. And since the center candle represents G-d awareness, the thing that has to be lit inside of us, at all times, is the G-d connection.
The always element of keeping the Menorah lit is specifically related to night. Keeping our faith during the hard times, during exile. When teaching, we have to give the children the faith to get through the bad times in life too.
If you see someone go off the Derech, someone rebelling because of a bad teacher or a hard life experience, you must ask yourself…and what of the others in similar situations. Why did one kid buckle and the other not? Why did some people go through the Holocaust and became stronger, while others ran from G-d? It might be that one kid was given the ability by parents to “stay lit” even in hard times.