"Do not pour it on anyone else's body and do not make any other oil using the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. Whoever makes perfume like it and puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from their people." - Exodus 30:32-33
The Torah portion for this week is Ki Tisa, which means "when you raise up," from Exodus 30:11-34:35, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 18:20-39.
Recently, an experiment was done where four average-looking women were asked to participate in a professional photo shoot and then have their photos retouched so that they would resemble cover models. The experimenters wanted to see how the women would react to their more model-like images.
When the women were shown the retouched photos, their reactions surprised even themselves. While they liked how they looked, the woman looking back at them wasn't really them at all; sure, she was beautiful, but she wasn't them. The retouched image was just a copy of any other model in any magazine.
When we look at other people, it's tempting to think that they are somehow more ideal than we are. Someone always looks better. Another is more successful in business. Someone else, the seemingly perfect parent. There is always someone who seems to be more talented or gifted than we are. However, God doesn't want us to go around looking at how He made other people. He wants us to look at how He made us. We are each "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14) with our own unique gifts.
In this week's Torah portion, God directed Moses to anoint Aaron and his sons with sacred oil. Then, God specified that the sacred oil could not be poured on anyone else's head; furthermore, no one was permitted to make a copy of that sacred oil. That anointing was intended solely for Aaron and his sons and no one else.
Beneath the surface, I think the lesson for us all is that God has sacred oil for each and every one of us that is intended for us alone. We are all anointed for our specific purposes. The problem arises when we want another person's role. We want to look like that person, be like that person, and do what that person does. However, as those women in the experiment discovered, if you take on someone else's qualities, there is very little left of your own authentic self.
When God created us, He wasn't interested in another version of something He had already created. We are each our own masterpiece. How tragic - we are all born "originals," but so many die as "copies." We all know that originals are far more valuable than knockoffs.
Today, ask yourself what makes you "you"? What are your unique qualities? How are you imitating others, and how can you be more yourself? God has anointed each of us for a personal sacred purpose. Dare to be the original you were created to be!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President