The Fire Within

This Shabbat is Shabbat haGadol, the Shabbat immediately preceding Passover, and traditionally, it was one of the two Shabbats where the rabbi would give a loooong sermon, the other being Shabbat Shuva, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The purpose of this Shabbat’s long sermon would be to give instructions to the congregation about Passover preparations, clearing out the chametz, getting ready for the seders, the laws of the holidays and whatever else was pertinent to that community. The good news is, this post won’t be a “loooong sermon,” but I would like to share some thoughts about this week’s Torah reading, Tzav, and how it relates to Passover preparations.

Our parashah begins with God speaking to Moses and telling him to give Aaron the instructions for the various korbanot, sacrificial offerings, and it spells out the role of the kohanim, the priests, which in this case is Aaron and his sons. It could easily be seen as an instruction manual for the kohanim, complete with a description of what the well-dressed kohen will be wearing, depending on the task he is performing.

What I think is much more relevant than priestly robes, however, is the initial commandment, that the offering, the olah, should burn kol halaila ad boker, “all night until morning,” v’aish ha misbeach tookad bo, “while the fire keeps burning on it.”

The operative word here is “bo,” which is translated as “on it.” But there’s another way to translate the root bet-vav, and that is “within him”–him, at this point, presumably referring to Aaron and his sons. This different interpretation of the word bo adds a human element to the discussion by suggesting that the fire on the altar paralleled the priest’s enthusiasm for his sacred work.

This is an interesting twist. Through Moses, God instructed the kohanim in the tachlis, the nuts and bolts; the technical information. However, nothing is said about their attitude or state of mind in carrying them out… were they done with a particular kavannah, intention, or was everyone simply going through the motions? We’re left to speculate about it.

We could say that aish hamizbeach tookad bo is “the fire on the altar with him,” the fire in the belly, the passion for one’s work, whether that’s a paid job, a sport, a hobby or another activity. The idea is to do it with feeling and intention. In fact, the Talmud, in tractate Berachot states, mitzvoth tsrichot kavannah, “performing a mitzvah requires the intent to perform it.” I’ll spare you the two class sessions we spent studying this material, only to come away just as confused–it was intro to Talmud–but we might say that we get “mitzvah points” for performing a mitzvah, and extra mitzvah points for performing that mitzvah intentionally, with feeling, and perhaps with a bracha before it.

The aish tamid is within each of us, and like a physical fire, if not properly cared for it can either rage out of control or be reduced to ashes. How do we tend and feed our fire? How do we maintain enthusiasm for our work, for our studies, and for the other roles we lead in our lives? Parashat Tzav reminds us that we must keep God within our own personal mishkan our own sanctuary, while we share that fire of enthusiasm with others, and share in theirs.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Sermons

Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun
Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun

Yom Kippur 5783 Like many of the quotes and poems that make their way into use, a poem attributed to an anonymous person in a concentration camp, or in hiding, became somewhat of an urban legend, and has often been taken out of context, as well as not accurately...

Kindness

Kol Nidre, 5783 On Rosh Hashanah, we began our prayers in the hopes of moving God, the Holy Blessed One, from kisei din, the throne or seat of judgment, to kisei rachamim, the throne or seat of compassion. Ten days later, here we are at the eve of Yom Kippur,...

Shema: Listening, Hearing and the Shofar

Rosh Hashanah 5783, Day 2 The word, “Shema.” What do you think of when you hear it? Usually, we think of “The Shema” as the verses we chant or sing from the book of Devarim, Deuteronomy, and in that context, it’s a bold theological statement. It is an idea which goes...

Latest Midrash HaZak

Bo: Telling Our Story, Enhancing our Senses
Bo: Telling Our Story, Enhancing our Senses

Bo: Telling Our Story, Enhancing our Senses Rabbi Sue Live Elwell When we turn to the texts that have accompanied many throughout the days of their lives, we look for directional signs that may be useful to us as we navigate our final days and years. As we age, we...

Emor: Questioning The Status Quo
Emor: Questioning The Status Quo

Emor: Questioning The Status Quo Dr. Betsy Stone I am fascinated by this parsha, with its juxtaposition of HOLY days and UNHOLY people. Emor begins by telling us how a Kohen may be defiled/ritually impure–by visiting a graveyard, shaving parts of their heads or...

Miketz: Preparing For Life’s Journey
Miketz: Preparing For Life’s Journey

Miketz: Preparing for Life's Journey Rabbi Dayle Friedman In Parashat Miketz, we encounter Joseph as a person growing in wisdom. For the third time in his life, he is moved to interpret a pair of dreams. As a youth, Joseph reports two dreams in which he is a center of...

Latest Personal Blogs

Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem
Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem

This past week, I participated in a Ritualwell class with Alden Solovy on "Writing From One Word of Torah." I distilled 3 stream-of-consciousness prompts on the word "Baruch/Berekh," the root of which can mean "blessing' and "knee, into this poem. Blessing my bended...

The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives
The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives

Photo: publicdomainpictures.net The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives An email from My Jewish Learning about “A Woman of Valor” prompted me to pivot the next evening’s planned adult learning session to looking at these 22 verses from Mishlei, the Book of Proverbs. These verses...

Live Long and Prosper?
Live Long and Prosper?

By Oklahoma Heritage Association, Gaylord-Pickens Museum - Author, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25656727 Live Long and Prosper? January 5, 2022 began the third year of the seven and a half-year cycle of Daf Yomi, the practice of...

Pin It on Pinterest