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Shabbat Parashat Tzav| 5764
A Fire That Burns Always, In EveryoneHarav Moshe Ehrenreich
The term, “the fire on the altar shall burn it” appears three times in the beginning of our parasha. Once it refers to the korban olah (sacrifice that was fully consumed on the altar), once to the trumat hadeshen (that which was removed from the ashes of the altar), and once to the korban sh’lamim (sacrifice that was shared between the altar, the kohanim, and the person who offered it). A glaring difference between these references is that by the trumat hadeshen and sh’lamim the Torah adds that “it shall not be extinguished,” which is not mentioned by the olah.
Rashi (from Torat Kohanim) explains the word “tzav” (command) as a call for diligence, immediately and for all future generations. Do these commandments we have mentioned contain a message for all generations, including those that have not merited an altar and sacrifices?
The Ba’al Hatanya (Likutei Amarim 19) explains the pasuk “the soul of man (adam) is the candle of Hashem” (Mishlei 20:27) as follows. Bnei Yisrael, who are referred to as “adam,” have souls that resemble fire. Fire always moves upward, because its nature is to separate from the wick and cling to its Heavenly source, even though it will lose its source of energy in the process. So too, the Jewish soul has a desire to leave the body that sustains it and return to its Maker, even though it will cause the man to cease to exist. This natural tendency exists even among sinners in Yisrael, as can be seen historically by Jews over the ages who gave their life at the stake to sanctify His name even though they were distant from a life of Torah observance.
Sacrifices are the permitted mechanism for revealing our desire to cling to Hashem to the fullest possible extent. The olah symbolizes those Jews whose entire existence revolves around the spiritual and Divine. Sh’lamim correspond to those whose lives are dedicated partially to the spiritual and partially to the physical. The trumat hadeshen refers to those who are on the lowest spiritual levels. Yet the Torah teaches us that the eternal fire, which symbolizes the soul’s desire to cling to its Maker, applies to all Jews, even those who seem to be estranged from Him.
So why is the added phrase, “it shall not be extinguished,” mentioned specifically by the sh’lamim and deshen, not the olah? The eternal fire is clearly seen by people who follow the olah model, and because it is obvious, it does not need to be stressed. The chidush is that the fire is never extinguished, even for those by whom it is only partially evident or even totally hidden.
The Yerushalmi (Yoma 4:6) learns from the phrase, “it shall not be extinguished,” that the fire is lit even on Shabbat and even in the presence of tum’ah (impurity). The inner flame must indeed escort us whether we are in a period and atmosphere of holiness or one of impurity.
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