The Altars Flames

In the beginning of this week’s parasha, Tzav, Aron and his sons are commanded that the fire on the Altar must be kept burning consistently. The verse says: "The flame of the altar shall burn on it. Do not extinguish it." Why does it express it this way? Is the second stage really necessary? If it already says the flame should burn on it, isn’t it obvious that we should not extinguish it?

So one of the answers is that although the flame that burns on the altar was of DIVINE origin, there is a mitzvah  to make sure not to ever extinguish that flame. 

We can learn a beautiful idea here. Certain talents or “raw materials” that we are bestowed with are a divine gift from Above. This is represented by the origin of the flame that was of divine origin. However, we have the obligation to constantly fuel the flame. 

On a macro level, this means that we have been given a heritage, a tradition, and it is our duty to ensure that this “flame” remains alive forever. The coming festival of Pesach is probably the best example to this: Pesach is the oldest religious festival that is still celebrated in the world. For the last 3300 years since Exodus, Jews all around the world continuously celebrate Pesach with Matzah, Ma nishtana and Dayenu.

On a micro level, this goes back to the divine talents and opportunities that each one of us has. But the question is what do you do with them? There is a gap between what one is and what one should become, or between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish. We have our own private slaveries, our own strive for freedom, our own private exodus from Egypt...each of us have our own limitations, challenges, restrictions, things we want to do or just not being able to do. In fact, I think the most accurate definition of tragedy is potential that is unrealized. 

As the Priest’s obligation was to make sure that the divine flame on the altar does not extinguish, our obligation is to make sure that we make the best out of the "divine" raw materials we were given.

Shabbat Shalom,
WCS Team


Added on: March 22, 2013

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