Tetzaveh 27:20: And you shall command the Children of Israel that they shall take for you pure olive oil, crushed for illumination, to kindle a lamp continually.

The Torah portion begins with God's instructions to Moshe about the oil that is used for the Menorah. God emphasizes that the oil must be totally pure. This is in contrast to the law with regard to the oil used in the Mincha offerings, where there was no such obligation to use totally pure oil. What is the difference between the two?

Rav Eliyahu Meir Kovner[1] explains based on the symbolism of the two different services. The Mincha offering is a type of personal offering, therefore it represents performance of the personal mitzvot. However, the Menorah gives light to the world, and accordingly it symbolizes spiritually influencing others. When a person does his own service, it is obviously ideal that his motives be as pure as possible, but if they are not, then it does not ruin the effect of the whole mitzvah.[2] In contrast, when a person is doing something on behalf of others, it is essential that his motives be totally pure in order for him to fully succeed. Thus, the oil represents the purity of intent - it is not essential to the service of the Mincha offerings, but it is essential to the service of the Menorah.

This idea is expressed in Pirkei Avot:[3] "...All who are involved with the community, should be involved for the sake of Heaven (leshem Shamayim); because the merit of the community will help them, and their righteousness stands eternally..."

The commentaries discuss why there is an extra emphasis on people who are involved in the communal needs to act for the sake of Heaven.[4] Rabbeinu Yonah[5] seems to understand that people who are involved in communal needs are more at risk of particular temptations: In particular, the desire for honor that is more of an issue when someone is acting in the public eye.

The Seforno[6] focuses on the fact that being involved with communal needs tends to be very difficult. As proof of this, he cites the Talmud in Sanhedrin[7] that states that when Yehoshua told Moshe Rabbeinu 'kalem' with regard to Eldad and Meidad,[8] he did not mean to literally destroy them,[9] rather he meant to get them involved in communal needs, which would be so difficult that it would totally wear them out. The Seforno explains that the Mishna is explaining how a person can succeed despite the difficulties of working for communal needs. By doing it leshem Shamayim, for the sake of the benefit of the community, the person will merit to tap into the merits of the members of the community and the merits of their ancestors. This teaches us that the only way to succeed when being involved with helping people is by striving to have as pure intentions as possible.

Rav Aron Yehuda Leib Shteinman stressed how difficult it is to act on behalf of the community with pure motives, as there are many other impure motives that can easily influence a person acting for the community. He would stress that the first stage is to be honest with oneself about his true motives. On one of his well-known trips to around the world, to inspire Jews around the world he had the choice of two possible people to accompany him. He asked them why they wanted to come - one answered that he wanted to see the awesome display of honoring the Torah that would take place when the people would come to see Rav Shteinman. The other admitted that he wanted to see the sites around the world. Rav Shteinman chose the second person because he felt that he was more honest about his intentions.

Rav Shteinman would give advice on how to incorporate a certain amount of leshem Shamayim into the actions of people acting for communal needs. Rabbi Yisrael Friedman[1] recalled that Rav Shteinman helped people gradually increase the percentage of leshem Shamayim in their actions. For instance, he advised Rabbi Friedman to sit the yetzer hara (negative inclination) next to him when he began writing an article and ask it point blank, 'Why do you want me to write'? "You want me to write for livelihood? You got it. You want me to write for pleasure? You got it. For power and influence? You got it... You got everything you want? That's it? So, what do you care if I also do it leshem Shamayim? If I also have in mind that I should write something that could help strengthen a Jew in his beliefs and practices?"

Rav Shteinman would say that in everything that a person does, he could reach the level of 'also leshem Shamayim'. In that way, the deed won't be entirely impure. He would say that if a person gets used to thinking this way, he'll have 1 percent leshem Shamayim sometimes, 2 percent at other times, and maybe even 10 percent or 20 percent at others. But at least in every action there will be some leshem Shamayim mixed in.

We have seen how important it is for people who are acting on behalf of the community, to strive as much as possible to incorporate pure intentions into their actions. As a reward, they will merit great Heavenly assistance to succeed in their holy endeavors.


1. Quoted in Mishulchan Gavoa, Tetzaveh, p. 187.
2. As the Sages teach, a person should perform Mitzvot even when his motives are not leshem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven), because it will lead to him doing them leshem Shamayim.
3. Pirkei Avot, 2:2.
4. This category can include anyone who works for communal needs, for the shul, or who teaches others.
5. Commentary on Pirkei Avot, 2:2.
6. Commentary on Pirkei Avot, 2:2.
7. Sanhedrin, 17a.
8. In Behaalotecha, they were prophesying in public and Yehoshua held it was a show of disrespect to Moshe. 9. The word, 'kalem' normally means 'to destroy'.
10. Chief Editor of Yated Ne'man, quoted in Hamodia, 24 Tevet, 5778, p .24.