Questioning faith in the parsha
March 19,2011/13 Adar II
Modern Author: Chaim Grade
KOSHI: ABRAVANEL: WHY are we told again and again[V2,5,6] that “the fire must not go out.” WHAT must we do to keep the light perpetually aflame? WHAT is the Source of that flame?
v.2 Command Aaron and his sons saying: This is the ritual of the burnt offering: the burnt offering itself shall remain where it is burned, upon the fire, on the altar, all night until morning…
RAMBAN… “while the fire on the altar is kept going on it.” That is, it is a commandment for the priests to add enough wood during the day so that it is not used up at night. In my opinion, V.6 is a separate commandment: that the fire shall not be allowed to go out at all. V.5 which says the same thing would then appear to be superfluous, permitting the Sages to interpret it as extending this commandment from the priests to all the people…All share responsibility for keeping up the fire.
CHIZKUNI… “while the fire on the altar is kept going on it.” Rather, ‘the fire on the [outer] altar is to be lit from it.’ In other words, one flame gives rise to another, the inner to the outer…
RASHBAM… “all night until morning.” It must burn by night just as by day.
SEFAS EMES…The phrase appears redundant: why “until morning?” if we have already said “all night” ?
This is to teach us that the very admixture of “darkness” in the worshippers heart will itself bring about the “morning.” For this is our order: “There was evening and there was morning…” Weekday prepares for Shabbos; profane is transformed into holy; this world prepares for the next…
v.5 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it, not to go out: every morning the Priest shall feed it wood, lay out the burnt offering…
RASHI…Torah speaks here of several fires…All of them have been expounded in Tractate YOMA[45a] as our Rabbis have disagreed about the number of fires that were needed…
R’ A.Z. FRIEDMAN… “tukad Bo–a fire shall be kept burning BO—on it .” Yet this may also be rendered “within him.” Hence the verse may be construed to mean that “the fire of the altar shall be kept burning within him.” That is the zeal of sacrifice is to be kept burning within the priest to whom the command is addressed.
v.6 A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, not to go out.
TORAT MOSHE…In every Jew there flickers a spark of the Divine flame that will never go out. But the leader—priest, prophet or teacher must feed that little spark with fire…If the Priests do this and kindle the spark in the heart of every Jew, they can be sure that God’s fire on the altar will burn perpetually—“never to go out.” OROT HaKODESH…We are told that one who extinguishes even an ember from the Holy Altar violates the prohibition “not to go out.” This is all the more true for the spiritual altar—the Jewish heart.
P.PELI…It is not enough to have a fire burning on the altar, say the Hasidic commentators, emphasizing that there must also be a “perpetual fire” of enthusiasm burning within us…Elie Wiesel tells of the poet who was aksed, “If you could save from your burning home only one thing, what would that be?” The poet answered, “The fire, for without it life would not be worth living.”
R’ M. ROTTENBERG… “It will never go out”—even in your journeys. When they wandered through the wilderness what did they do? They would cover the flame with a large pot. [J. Talmud, YOMA 4:6] It has been the Jewish way throughout the centuries to create vessels which would preserve the holy fire, even in exile. Those who broke the vessels eventually extinguished the fire of Jewish living, beginning with the Sadducees all the way through to the reformers.
R’ S. PROMBAUM…The inflaming spiritual altar within each person is more important than the external, physical altar. When Mordecai charges Esther with her responsibility to help save the Jewish people she asks for three days to ignite her own altar which had long ago grown cold…because Jewish identity had been submerged in the pursuit of other worldly objectives. All who seriously labor for Jewish continuity in the diaspora must take the words of Lev 6:5-6 to the altars of the hearts. But in so doing, the preceding verse contains valuable wisdom. Lev 6:4 suggests that the quality of today’s fire is affected by the ashes of yesterday. A build up of old ash will smother new fire…As S.R. HIRSCH put it: “Woe to him who rests upon his laurels…who does not begin the work of each day anew as if it were the very first day.”…