Parshas Tezaveh
Shemos 27:20 - 30:10

Plant An Olive Tree ©
Benefiting From Maturity: The Responsibility of Grandparents and Parents

By Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

This study is offered in the loving memory of Ms. Frederica Ann Brown, may she rest in peace.

‘‘And you shall command everything from Aleph to Tav of B’nei Yisroel and have them bring to you pure [transparent] olive oil [from olives that were] crushed io light [the menorah] so the light will constantly rise upward.’’ Shemos 27:20.

One of the saddest experiences among B’nei Yisroel is to observe an older Jew who lacks maturity. In Judaism, the greater one’s age should represent the greater one’s honor. Age is intended to represent a life filled with Torah mitzvahs, with Torah observance, with Torah knowledge and especially with wisdom. Our grandparents are two generations closer to Har Sinai and our parents one. That is supposed to count for something.

We learn in this week’s parsha that it is the most mature olives that produce the finest and purest olive oil.

Young olives, immature olives cannot provide this quality of oil. Even some ripe olives cannot provide this superior oil even though they grow together year after year and from season to season sharing rain, wind and sun.

In the same sense, among B’nei Yisroel each week we share the same parsha. The results are that some of us develop while others do not. Why is it that some benefit and others do not? Simply put, it has to do with where the olive trees are. Remember B’nei Yisroel lived in the Bamidbar. Where were they going to find olives suitable for the purest olive oil? Was the wilderness flooded with olive trees?

Frankly, I don’t know. I have read that the Middle Eastern countries produce almost 86% of the world’s olive oil yet they export only about 18% of what they grow. Olive trees live up to 700 years. They grow well in rocky and difficult terrain and need little water. One tree can produce up to twenty gallons of olive oil. They enjoy chilly evenings and regions with gentle winds. So we ask the question again, where was Kal Yisroel going to obtain the required olives?

This brings us to the point, where will our children find the proper maturity required to enlighten the Mishkon of their lives if not from the oil of their great grandparents’, their grandparents’ and their parents’ Shabbat table, their family shul of generations, their bubbe’s Shabbat silver candleholders, Challah cover or Zayde’s Kiddish cup or Tefillin? When the older generation misbehaves it has a ripple effect, G-d forbid. There is nothing to pass along to the next generation, G-D FORBID!!

Great grandparents, grandparents and parents who approve of mixed marriages are corrupted olives. Their oil will NEVER illuminate the Aron Kodesh of the Mishkon. It is that type of olive that must be hard pressed and ground to pulp to retrieve oil from.

Great grandparents, grandparents and parents who take their children to trayf eating places instead of shuls are stripping the fertile ground of the very best minerals, are tainting the potential spiritual investments for their own future, are destroying the foundation of Torah Yiddishkeit {observant Jewish culture}, are polluting the clean waters of future Judaism in their family. They are malignant, degenerate and immoral. Who will say Kaddish for them? Who will return their child or grandchild to the path of Torah? Who will give tzedaka in their memory? Who will study in their memory? Who will do mitzvahs and kindness in their memory?

So when we read in this week’s parsha that Hashem requires clear olive oil we are reminded that it is symbolic of the type of great grandparent, grandparent or parent that Hashem requires of every Jew! Our goal is to live the kind of life that at its conclusion will produce clear olive oil, olive oil that will be used to enlighten future generations.

I stood by the bedside of a man who was quite elderly. He had long ago forsaken Ha Torah and led his family and their children in the same direction. His family was disconnected and didn’t get along well with each other. No one stood by their father’s or grandfather’s bedside that day as death beckoned. It was a sad day!

He cried. He coughed and wheezed, he squeezed my hand tight! He said, ‘I am not ready to die.’ I related the following to him:

‘An olive tree can produce olives for hundreds of years. Many of the olives from that tree will NEVER reach complete maturity but their oil will be useful. Yet a few will produce olives with oil that could be used to illuminate the Bais Ha Mikdosh. You will not live to see the Moshiach or the Bet HaMikdosh. I may not either... But if you plant an olive tree in Eretz Yisroel it is likely that it will be producing olives when Moshiach comes and G-d willing it may provide olive oil that will light the Bet Ha Mikdosh.”

The man’s last act was scribbling an instruction on a piece of notepaper with a check attached: ‘Akiva plant an olive tree in Israel in my memory.’

Now, dear reader, you are not in that man’s position. You have a chance to alter your course. You can do more than plant an olive tree. You can still be an olive tree if you try... if you really try hard. I pray that Hashem should bless you in your endeavors to be the olive tree with the purest olive oil!

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

Written in 5760
Updated in 5764

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