Commentary for Tzav

14 Mar

In this week’s parshah we are given the commandment to keep a flame burning eternally in the Tabernacle.  Similar things such as setting lamps and incense to burn in the morning and in the evening had been mentioned during the Tabernacle’s construction during the book of Exodus, but a fire that specifically “shall be kept burning, not to go out” is first mentioned in Lev. 6:5.  This fire, described in the next verse as “perpetual” has become a strong symbol for the relationship between the Jewish People and God.

The metaphor of a perpetually burning flame representing the relationship between the Jews and God has been explained in many different, equally correct ways over the ages.  Some have focused on to the eternal nature of the flame, while others have latched onto the idea of the flame itself to explain that in times of difficulty, God will always be there to light the way for us, while still others have noted that just as fire burns wood and turns it into energy, so to can we use our relationship with God to turn mundane objects into things used for a spiritual purpose, among many other explanations.

While the metaphors all teach different lessons, they all share one important basis: God and man come together in a partnership.  One provides a foundation and the other acts upon that foundation.  Appropriately, this relationship is found in the upkeep of the flame itself.  In Lev. 6:5, the priests are commanded to feed wood to the fire every morning to keep it burning.  In Pirkei Avot 5:7, we learn that God ensured that fire would not go out when it rained. God and the Jewish People work together in a partnership that will be eternal so long as we have the desire to fuel it.

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