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… they shall take for you pure, pressed olive oil for illumination …” (Shemos 27:20)

The olives were initially pressed in a mortar so that they would not contain sediment. The first few drops of oil that were then extracted were used for the menorah, as it says “pressed oil for illumination,” i.e. but not for the meal offerings. The oil for the meal offerings was from the subsequent yield, extracted when the olives were placed into a mill and ground.


The great tzaddik R’ Nosson Fried expounds on this and notes that just as the pressed oil is used for lighting the menorah, the pressure from the yetzer on man is to produce light that he can use to intensify his service of Hashem.

Shlomo HaMelech states (Koheles 7:20), “There is no man so wholly righteous on earth that he … never sins.” And, indeed, from the creation of man and onward that has been so. Adam HaRishon slipped with the sin of the Tree of Knowledge; his son Kayin killed Hevel, his brother; and Noach became intoxicated after the Flood. It is even possible to attribute the slightest sin to the holy patriarchs and the tribes, as well as to Moshe and Aharon. Obviously, we cannot grasp the definition of “sin” as it relates to these holy people. In fact, the great R’ Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1859), states that these sins would even be on a higher level than our mitzvos.

R’ Eliyahu Lopian elaborates on the “mechanism” of sin. We learn (Avos 3:1), “Consider three things and you will not come into the grip of sin: Know from where you come, where you are going, and before Whom you will give reckoning.” R’ Lopian asks: Why does the mishna speak of coming into the “grip of sin,” and not merely say “you will not sin”?

A person, accused of a serious crime punishable by death, was being accompanied to court by an officer. The people standing in the street called out to him, “Why don’t you escape and save yourself? We’ll help you.”

The prisoner said, “I would gladly do so, but we are handcuffed together. How can I get away?”

Similarly, an individual may desire to do teshuva, but once he is in the “grip” of aveiros it’s more difficult; it’s as if he is handcuffed. Thus, as Shlomo HaMelech states, it is certainly conceivable that one will sin. There are, therefore, three considerations one must always keep in mind so that he does not become so deeply entrenched that he cannot extricate himself from the vise of the aveiros.

R’ Gamliel Rabinovich proffers more insight into this precept. Hashem knew that man would face many difficult challenges in life. And even when one has already undertaken to be careful in all areas of Torah and mitzvos, there will be times when his willpower will break. The concern is that when that happens, and man stumbles, he may immediately give up. He may despair of regaining any sense of holiness.

It is for this reason that we learn of the missteps and failings of our forefathers. Hashem testifies that despite their mistakes, our forefathers remained tzaddikim because they continued to stand up to their yetzer.

Let us speak of Adam HaRishon who, notwithstanding the fact that he was in Gan Eden enjoying the shine of the Divine Presence itself, nevertheless succumbed to the yetzer and ate from the Tree of Knowledge. It is difficult to understand how not being able to eat a certain fruit was such a difficult challenge for an exalted creation as Adam. He knew what he had to lose, yet he could not resist partaking of the fruit.

Shlomo HaMelech writes (Mishlei 24:16), “For though the righteous one may fall seven times, he will arise.” Adam HaRishon remained righteous and did teshuva for 130 years. Great people may stumble, or fall, but they don’t give up or fall victim to despair. When a person is tested it means he is valued and treasured. A thief only tries to rob somebody he knows has money. Likewise, the yetzer only tries to trip an individual who is spiritually resilient. The mere fact that the person fell should encourage him to raise himself up to his former standing.

R’ Friedman was one of the critically ill prisoners in Auschwitz towards the end of the war. As the Soviet troops approached, the Nazis forcefully evacuated these inmates by sending them on a death march. They led them to an open space away from the camp and lined them up in a row. Then, aiming their guns at each prisoner, they shot each one and watched the prisoner fall to the ground.

R’ Friedman thought to himself, “Why wait for the bullet? I’ll just fall right now,” and that’s what he did. The other prisoners were falling on top of him one by one, until there was a huge pile of bodies lying on the ground. Certain that their work was done, the Nazis left. R’ Friedman, though, was still breathing, but although he exerted all his effort to crawl out from beneath the bodies, he was too weak to do so.

“This is what has been decreed,” he said to himself. “Let me at least say viduy.” He recited the shema and viduy and seeing that he was still alive he began to calculate what day his yahrzeit would be observed. He suddenly realized that it was rosh chodesh and had a strange thought. He could recite the hallel, which he did.

As he said the words, “The dead cannot praise Hashem,” he recalled that his Rebbi had once said that there are people whose prayers are “dead,” i.e. they are dull and spiritless, and the phrase referred to them. That is not the prayer that Hashem wants. Hashem wants, as Dovid HaMelech continues, “we will bless Hashem from this time and forever,” prayers that have a heart and soul, prayers that are afire.

R’ Friedman became totally absorbed in connecting with his Father in heaven. Imbued with the spirit of life, he began to pray with great enthusiasm and excitement. Suddenly he had the strength to climb out from under the heap of bodies.

That spark of life is within the soul of every Jew. No matter how low a Jew has fallen, or how bleak and dark his situation may seem, there is always hope.

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Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, a prominent rav and Torah personality, is a daily radio commentator who has authored over a dozen books, and a renowned speaker recognized for his exceptional ability to captivate and inspire audiences worldwide.