dvar for parashas Tzav 5781

“Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continually; it shall not go out.”

– Leviticus 6:6, JPS 1917 Tanach

The olah [elevation offering] remained on the mizbeach all night until the morning (Leviticus 6:2). This refers to the daily tamid offering; one lamb was brought as an offering in the morning, and one in the evening. The commandment for eish (fire) to be kept burning upon the mizbeach (altar) all night, was enacted throughout the nightime by the remaining parts of the evening olah. Additionally, two logs of wood were placed on the mizbeach in the morning, and again in the evening. The fire that was kept continually burning upon the mizbeach, reflects the ideal devotion towards H’Shem that we should have on a continual basis. The olah offering of the morning and evening, represent our devotion – day and night. The morning and afternoon services – shachris and mincha – relate to the two daily tamid offerings; whereas the evening service (maariv) has its complement, as pertaining to the remainders of the olah of the second tamid offering that burnt throughout the night.

Yet, the ner tamid (eternal light), represented by the light above the ark in a synagogue, brings us even closer to an understanding of what H’Shem desires of us. In the Zohar, the “everlasting fire,” that is to be kept continually burning on the mizbeach (altar), alludes to the divine light of the soul (Tikkunei Zohar 74a). As expressed elsewhere, “The spirit [neshama] of man is the lamp of the L-RD, searching all the inward parts” (Proverbs 20:27). To connect with H’Shem on a continual basis (deveykus), we need to engage every facet of ourselves – our thought, speech, and behavior – in an effort towards enhancing the light within us. As is demonstrated by the flame of a candle, that flickers upwards, just as our (neshama) soul should reach up towards Shomayim (Heaven). This is denoted in the manner that many Jewish people pray, swaying back and forth while standing in prayer.

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