BRIGHT SPARK OR DULL EMBER ??
This week’s Sedra opens with Moses being told to command Aaron and his sons to take the olah offering and to keep it on the flame of the Mizbe’ach all night until the morning.
“ The fire upon the altar shall be kindled upon it, never extinguished, and the priest shall place wood upon it every morning, and he shall arrange the elevation offering upon it, and he shall burn the fats of the peace offering. A permanent fire shall be kindled upon the altar; it shall never be extinguished” (6:5-6)
Immediately we can draw a connection between the Altar in the Temple and the altar we try to build in ourselves. The Toras Moshe expresses the same idea when discussing these verses. He notes that within the soul of every Jew, there is a spark of Judaism. “The candle of G-d is the human soul.” ( Proverbs 20:27 ) Even if the spark remaining is small, I believe it is never extinguished, lying like a dull ember.
What we have to do in order to fan the flame to bring it to full blaze, is to feed the fire within us with words of chizuk, inspiration each and everyday. Those tasks that we thought were beyond our reach are not. Those mitzvot that seem too hard, are not, given our sincere attempt to try them. Like riding a bicycle when you have fallen off – try again immediately, practice makes perfect.
Here though we should not be looking for perfection “ Torah Hashem Temima. ” What we need to bring to the tasks at hand is sincerity. No more so than in our relationship with each other. A helping hand, an encouraging smile, a knowing glance, these things can fashion our interpersonal behaviour, the mitzvot “ between man and man.”
This idea of peace and harmony among each other can be seen in the elevation offering, which is given directly to G-d, and the peace offering in this context reflecting peace between human beings. The idea I think should be clear to all of us. Dedicate our lives to the service of Hashem, coming closer to Him brings us closer to each other.
The burning flame within us is beautifully illustrated by the command to the Jewish people in this week’s Sedra. Here the people are commanded by G-d to have an eternal flame burning constantly on the altar of the Mishkan and later in Jerusalem in the Temple. The Midrash informs us that the flame on the altar was reminiscent of a crouching lion and miraculously did not go out even when being transported in the desert and covered with its protective cloth. The flame was neither extinguished nor burnt the cloth.
The love we have for Hashem and the love we have for His Torah, we should have for each other. King Solomon in Shir Hashirim portrays this idea beautifully. “ Many waters of heathen tribulation cannot extinguish the fire of this love, nor rivers of royal seduction or torture wash it away.” ( 8:7 ) Nothing can quench the fire of love we have for Hashem
As Rabbi Wein remarks “ it is the fire of eternity that has preserved Israel to this day.”
Our Sedra states “ The fire on the Mizbe’ach shall remain aflame on it, it shall not be extinguished.” The warning “ lo tichbeh ” applies to this day when we face yet again from many external sources the desire to eliminate us and to reduce the flame of our enthusiasm for our holy Torah to a dull ember.
It is interesting to note that whilst Moses’s name is not mentioned in the sedra of Teztaveh the name of Hashem is not mentioned in the Megilla Esther which we read this weekend.
Also when reading the Megilla we blot out by noise the name of Haman.
By implication it would seem that some people have such an influence that the mention of their names is not necessary, and some people have such a bad influence that their names have to be blotted out.
Moses continued to minister in the Sanctuary despite not being mentioned in that Sedra. Hashem’s presence and control over events in the Purim story is evident even though His name is not mentioned and the wicked Haman’s misdeeds cause his name to be drowned out by noise.
Perhaps there is another message here for all of us. In life some people require their name to be publicised whenever an opportunity arises and some are happy to rest under the umbrella of being anonymous. Some people require to be clothed in the vestments of officialdom and others happy to remain clothed in plain white garments.
Whatever your personal choice surely what matters is the purity of our motives and the sincerity of our actions knowing that by our own example we always have an opportunity to influence others for good.
In our own Sanctuary, our home, we have a daily opportunity to serve and minister to Hashem our G-d. As Am Kodosh, a holy people we can be the High Priests ministering before G-d. We do not need fancy titles or special garments to come closer to Hashem, just the desire and will to love Hashem with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might.
We have to decide on the eve of the important Chag Pesach what kind of flame burns within us. What heritage do we want to pass on to our children?
Bright sparks or dull embers – you choose!
There will be a special Pesach message coming soon.
I wish you all a happy and joyous Shabbat and a fulfilling day.
Shabbat Shalom from me and of course TTFN.
( Part of a regular shiur given on Thursday at Young Israel of North Netanya Synagogue)