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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

For Olive

Dear Readers,

First of all, I wanted to apologize to you for a poorly edited introduction to my other poem for Parshat Tetzaveh, called In Living Color. I was away this week and did my editing on my phone. I fear that I was a very poor editor, indeed! I have corrected the introduction.

This second poem for Parshat Tetzaveh is called For Olive and is an ode to those exotic items listed in this week's parsha for the building of the Mishkan. These unusual and precious items all come from somewhere. They are transported, prepared and fashioned by talented humans, but they are the raw material from which beauty is fashioned. Sometimes the items listed are animals or common items we find in the open and sometimes they are hidden and must be painstakingly discovered. These items have no mouths with which to speak and so here, with my pen, I offer them thanks. Not all of the items required for Mishkan are thanked here, but at least some of them appear in For Olive.

Shabbat Shalom,



For olive

For acacia

Frankincense and carnelian,

For flax and lazuli stones.


As the wind blew the ancient olive tree on a terraced hillside, could the olive know that her clear golden oil would anoint kings and priests?

As the sheep stood peacefully eating plants on the hillsides, could the sheep know that its wool would be woven to adorn the walls of the mishkan?

Might the animal bone painstakingly sharpened into a needle feel pride that it would be an instrument of holiness?

Did the ancient crust of the earth willingly open her folds so gold nuggets could be mined and smelted into a breastplate?

Did the clear running groundwater nudge stones for thousands of years just to have a role in creating jewels for Your glory?

Do the spices of the Ketorot blush when their pungent and sweet scents, transported from near and far, create savory smoke that floats on high?

Did the root of the madder plant swell with happiness knowing that her roots would lend their brilliant dyes to clothe priests?

Could the spreading wild acacia tree understand, as it inhabited the desert floor, that its wood would be sawed, sanded and smoothed to make the walls of the Mishkan?

Could the trickling spring overflow with excitement knowing that over eons it would create onyx that was mined and shaped for the ephod?

Could the modest flax plant know it was being donated and would be soaked and soaked again, separated, dried, spun into thread, and woven into cloth so it could be made into linen to clothe Aaron and the priests?

And does the magma flush with pride for its role in creating crystals and precious stones?

With thanks,

to you have no mouths to speak.

You, who grace terraced hills, water and air.

You who bleat and root.

You, who heat and you who hide deep underground.

You, who have no talent to form and fashion,

but are the stuff of creation.

For Olive, with thanks.

1874 George C. Needham from Wikicommons images- The Jewish Tabernacle

You shall make a breast-piece of decision, worked into a design; make it in the style of the ephod: make it of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen. It shall be square and doubled, a span in length and a span in width. Set in it mounted stones, in four rows of stones. The first row shall be a row of carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald; the second row: a turquoise, a sapphire, and an amethyst; the third row: a jacinth, an agate, and a crystal; and the fourth row: a beryl, a lapis lazuli, and a jasper. They shall be framed with gold in their mountings.

Exodus 28:15-20

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