You shall command the Children of Israel to bring you pure beaten oil for a light, to cause the lamp to burn continually (Exodus 27:20).

Abraham Saba (1440-1508), the Tzror HaMor, taught, “Israel is likened to an olive, which yields up its oil only when it is crushed, for Israel reveals its true virtues only when it is made to suffer.” This is not surprising coming from a rabbi who lived during the expulsion of Jews from Spain. He fled to Portugal and had to flee once again when King Manuel I ordered the Jews out of Portugal, Jewish children to convert to Christianity, and all Hebrew books burned (December 24, 1496). Saba also argued that, like oil, Jews refused to mingle with other nations and always rose above them.

Suffering and being “crushed” do not necessarily lead to one’s virtues to be revealed. Some individuals, when treated in that humiliating manner, retreat into darkness and isolation instead. One need not beat someone up for them to see how to more properly behave. Perhaps a gentler “pressing” would be necessary for one’s light to shine. Though the task ahead may be difficult, if one were to evidence mistakes and shortcomings while at the same time encouraging a successful outcome, one can alleviate the “crushingness” of criticism. Then, perhaps, the person will accept responsibility for their performance and understand that obstacles are surmountable, and that effort put in for the future will lead to success.

Finally, it is through the teachings of Torah that we can allow our “lamp to burn continually” as we mingle among others for whom our light can dispel the darkness in which they tread. Remember, we are called to be “a light unto the nations” (Isaiah 49:6).