In this week’s Torah portion, Tzav, six times in six verses there is reference to the fire burning on the altar that must not go out. There is a hint here of something deeper, but reading the rest of this portion from the book of Leviticus gives us very little clue as to what that deeper meaning might be. For most of the rest of the Torah portion we seem bogged down in the details of priestly garments, and priestly sacrifices, how to build the fire and how to clean out the ashes which required special garments and ceremonies of its own.
But beneath all this ceremony – these rites and rituals of our ancient past – there echoes this message, six times repeated, on the importance of kindling light. Perhaps this light is a metaphor for our religious lives. On the surface of things, our lives are filled with the many responsibilities, the practical details of life that consumes our days – and yet there needs to be more to life than just that.
About a century ago, a chasidic master, The Sefat Emet, wrote: “In the soul of every Jew there lies a hidden point that is aflame with love of God, a fire that cannot be put out.” In other words, each of us is like the altar in the Tabernacle of old. Each of our souls is aflame with holy fire. And, each of our lives needs to make room for us to regularly feed that flame of God, through moments of holiness like celebrating holidays and sacred moments in our lives, through prayer and learning in God’s holy name. Each of us needs to care for that holy fire so that it might burn brightly within us and never go out.
May your flame burn brightly and may it bring warmth and healing to the world.