“This is for collecting the virgin Oil from the first crush, the upper stone is called a memel, the lower stone is called a ‘yam.”(Photo and Caption from ScoutIsrael.com)
By Yonatan Gordon
Today we’re going to continue our branding series, this time talking about the medium that is now hosting this article for you, WordPress.com. As we hope to explain, the best kind of writing comes from the press. But instead of the printing press, our focus today will be on the olive press.
Our source in Jewish thought will be coming from Exodus 27:20:”And you [Moses] shall command the Children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the lamps continually.”
Even before we explain this in more detail, as this is our source for the WordPress brand concept, there are several lessons that we can immediately gain for your writing endeavors. The first is that our writing should be “pure,” free of extraneous bits and sediments. This relates to the value and clarity people ascribe to your writing; in order to post “pure” blog posts, they shouldn’t contain extra words, extraneous thoughts, and so forth. The second lesson is that the posts should be light-filled for a purpose. Like the olive oil in this verse that was used to light the Menorah in the Holy Temple, your writing should also light up the world. But the phrasing is “for lighting” not “to light”. As we will explain according to Chassidic tradition, the use of the former term instead of the latter denotes that the lighting is “for the illuminator” (i.e. God). It follows from this then, that most fundamental is that your writing should increase the awareness of God in the world. The third lesson relates to the timing and consistency of posts. If you have something beneficial to say, where possible, it is best not to delay saying (or typing) it. The phrase “constant flame” also implies that we should be continually coming up with things to say. If your flame is burning brightly within, there will be many opportunities ahead to share this light with the world.
PRESSING OUT LIGHT
Our phrase ends with the two words katit lama’or (כתית למאור), meaning “crushed for lighting.” First let us explain the literal meaning of these words. There are many grades of olive oil. The highest grade is called alpha lashemen (אלפא לשמן). How is the highest grade of oil produced? By crushing the olives! The word katit, means “crushed.” The olive oil produced by crushing the olives (according to the sages, when the olives are still on the tree) is then to be used for lighting the menorah in the Temple.
Now as we noted, the second word lama’or, which literally means “for a ma’or,” but which is translated as “for lighting.” Ma’or actually means a luminary—a source of light—like the sun and the moon, which were described as luminaries in the account of creation (שני המאורות). What this implies is that the highest grade of olive oil is actually a source of light in itself. This is higher than if the oil would only have been used in order to produce light. Now, when interpreting the special use of the word “lama’or” here according to Chassidut, that oil that serves as a source of light is a reference to the atzmut (the essence) of God. Crushing the olives in order to produce the highest grade of oil, not only produces light, but it reveals the source of light in the
olives—in other words, it reveals atzmut.
The culmination of this thought is that in order for us to become luminaries of the essence of God, we have to be crushed. It is impossible to reveal this highest source of light in us without being broken, without having a broken heart.
One may think that the end result should be something similar to one of those depressing English classics we were forced to read in high school. But the opposite is really the case here. Once a person is properly “crushed,” then the purest drops of olive oil shine through. Many of you can probably see this within your own writing. When something was easy to write, it may be good writing, but great writing usually comes after surmounting some challenge or obstacle–colloquially called “writer’s block.”
But our question remains. How does this tremendous joy go together with the knowledge that the only way to reveal atzmut is by being broken and crushed?
The answer relates to the ideal state of a Jew in times of exile. In the language of the Zohar: “Bechiyah [meaning “crying” or “sorrow”] is wedged in the heart from this side [the left side of the heart] and Chedvah [meaning “joy”] is wedged in the heart from this side [the right side of the heart].” Indeed, the ideal state, the state expressed in our soul root, expresses the paradox of crying and being jovial at the same time.
Now, the two words bechiyah, “crying” (בכיה), whose gematria is 37, and chedvah, “joy” (חדוה), whose gematria is 23, form a numerical pair in Kabbalah (called a michlol). The other most important pair of words whose values are 37 and 23 are chayah (חיה = 23) and yechidah (יחידה = 37), the two highest levels of the soul
So we have seen that crying and being joyful are the two states that should ideally coexist simultaneously in each of our hearts. You always have joy and broken-heartedness residing together in the heart, but it is specifically the higher state of being crushed, of the crying of the yechidah, that leads to the revelation of the atzmut of God in our soul root.
It is only in the future, when the exile is over and Messianic consciousness sets in, that everything will be transformed into pure joy. But in the meantime, crying and being crushed by the weight of the exile takes you higher than joy.
PENNING OUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Perhaps the most popular reason for starting a blog is to begin writing down the unfolding story of your life. But if we merit to write from a state of properly being “crushed,” then the atzmut (the essence) of God shines forth. Instead of the unfolding story of our personal lives, those writers who so merit are instead penning the unfolding story of creation. This is most strongly reflected in tzadikim, the righteous and holy individuals whose stories we continue to tell and retell.
Famous in this respect is Rebbe Dovid of Lelov, who once said, “Now we learn the tractate of Baba Kama, but in the World to Come there will be an additional tractate called Rebbe Dovid of Lelov.” Apart from what we can learn about proper conduct from the stories of tzadikim, the life-story of every tzadik is actually Torah (just as most of the Torah is the story of people that actually lived).
But, the lives of the tzadikim are not the only stories told by the Creator. Since God creates each and every one of us at every moment anew, every person has to know that he too is a story being told by the Creator. And, the reason that God gives us free-will is so that we can write our own story.
There is much more we can say on this topic, but we will close this chapter of the story for now.
The main thing to keep in mind is that the job of a writer is never done. Even as one post ends, the next one begins in waiting.
Excerpted and freely adapted from material on www.Inner.org.