by Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton
A young boy was playing on his grandfather's lap. After a few minutes, the man reached into his pocket and took out two coins. Turning to his excited grandson he said "My dear boy, I'm giving you these two coins but they are not both for you. I would like you to take one of these coins and do a special mitzvah by giving the coin to someone in need. The other coin you can use to buy yourself an ice-cream at the corner-store". Bouncing from his grandfather's lap in glee, the young boy ran straight out the front door - headed for his favourite shop - the ice-cream store. As he ran along the footpath, tossing his two precious coins into the air in delight, the inevitable happened - one of the coins fell from his hands and rolled right down the drain, lost forever. Without a minute's hesitation, the boy turned his eyes heavenwards and mumbled "Well G-d, there goes your coin".
In the beginning of this week's Torah portion we read about the Menorah which was lit every day in the Temple. G-d commanded Moses to ensure that only the most "pure olive oil" be used when lighting the Menorah. Our sages tell us that to fulfil this instruction, only the very first drop of oil - the absolute finest - was used to kindle the menorah. The remaining oil in the olive was used for the baking of various flour offerings that were brought in the Temple and then partially eaten by their owners.
If you had two kinds of oil, one of superior quality and one not as fine - which one would you use for cooking and which one for lighting? Most people would probably save the best for their palate. So why in the temple was it done the other way around?
King Solomon tells us that "a candle is a mitzvah and the Torah its light". Torah and mitzvoth have the ability to light up our souls and our lives. The menorah and its light thus represent Torah and Mitzvot - all things holy. Conversely, the flour offering which was eaten by its owner symbolizes the physical, bodily needs of man.
The tough economic climate of today has forced many people to cut down on their living expenses. Unfortunately, very often those cuts start with the kind of costs that can be called "G-d's expenses". Giving 10% of one's earnings to charity can be very costly. Living a kosher lifestyle is by no means cheap. Commitment to daily prayer often means a few minutes less at the office. But that doesn't mean that when things are tough, "G-d" needs to be the first to go.
From the way the oil was used in the Temple we learn a timeless lesson about priorities. For Torah and mitzvot - the Menorah- we should be happy to spend, not compromising on the finest and purest. If we need to make do with less - let it start with our coin, not G-d's.