At the beginning of Parshat Tetzaveh, Hashem commands Bnei Yisrael to supply pure olive oil - Shemen zayit zakh, for the lighting of the Menorah in the Mishkan.
In Shmot, Perek 27, Pasuk 20:
וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית--לַמָּאוֹר: לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר, תָּמִיד
And you should command the children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.
In Shmot Rabba, 36:1, the Chachamim comment on this pasuk, explaining that there is great significance in Hashem commanding His people to specifically provide olive oil for the Mishkan.
The Midrash quotes Yirmiyahu in Sefer Yirmiyahu, Perek 11, Pasuk 16:
זַיִת רַעֲנָן יְפֵה פְרִי-תֹאַר, קָרָא ה' שְׁמֵךְ
Hashem called your name a leafy olive-tree, fair with goodly fruit...
Here, Hashem compares Bnei Yisrael to that of a fresh olive.
In explaining this analogy, the Midrash points to a number of similarities between Am Yisrael and the olive, including, "Just as an olive is crushed and then produces its oil, so do Israel: the nations of the world come and beat them, and they then do teshuva (repentance) and Hashem answers them." Since the olive's production of oil involves pressing, it is symbolic of Benei Yisrael's return to God in response to persecution.
The Sefas Emes, says: "A human being is created to light up this world" (Chanukah, 1874).
Perhaps this is the necessary directive for the Jewish people as they were involved in the work of building a Mishkan - their contributions to filling the world with light. The Mishkan is likened to a mini Briyat haOlam, creation of the world. Hashem is providing the opportunity for us to partner in this "creation" of sorts - of bringing light to this new intimate space for the Jewish people. As the Midrash on this Parsha explains: Hashem said: "It is not that I need their light for for illumination. I am the Light of the World. Rather, I am giving you an opportunity to provide light for Me, just as I provided light for you."
Throughout the history of the Jewish people, we have worked hard to keep the light burning. In reality, the light is beyond the physical flame. For Jews, the purest light of the shemen zayit zach represents Torah (the root which is light) and the Jewish spirit more than the tangible light itself. While the actual clear flame provides light and warmth, there is a psychological message of support in challenging times and circumstances. The key is to keep kindling the light - pressing the olive. That is the difficult task at hand: Creating a sense of spirit and encouragement. The purer the oil, the brighter, firmer and stronger the flame. This
light is crucial for our existence and our continuity as a people.
The Megilah says, “Layehudim hayta orah v’simcha v’sasson vi’ykar. The Jews had light, joy, gladness, and dignity.” The Gemara explain that orah refers to Torah. The Jews already accepted all mitzvot at Har Sinai, but their light, joy, and passion were missing. On Purim the Jews repented with love and with it came a new acceptance of the Torah with enthusiasm and gladness.
Every week, as we conclude Shabbat in Havdalah, we say this pasuk from the Megilah out loud as a reminder to take the joy and inspiration of the Shabbat day into our week.
May we continue to bring forth the pure light that comes from within us to enlighten each other through learning, energy and passion in service to Hashem, to our people and our world.