The Unforgettable Fire: Tzav 2023

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Don’t you just hate it when we read something redundant? Don’t you just hate it when we read something redundant?

A description of the eternal flame in the portable sanctuary seems awfully repetitive:

The Pitch: “A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, not to go out.” – Leviticus 6:6

Swing #1: “This is redundant, and this makes it emphatic: this ritual law has special significance because it brings together space and time. YHWH tells Moses to command Aaron and his sons to keep an eternal fire burning at the altar. This law thus provides for a visual expression of the idea that the ritual structure that is starting here is to prevail for all time to come. This fire that is not to be quenched is also reminiscent of the account in Exodus of Moses’ encounter with YHWH at a bush that burns without being consumed.” – Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah

Swing #2: “In every Jew there flickers a spark of Divine fire that will never go out. But the leader, priest, prophet or scholar must feed that little spark with fiery oratory, and stir it up anew each morning, with regard to the duties of man toward his Maker. … If the priests do this and kindle the sparks of the Divine in the hearts of the Jews they may be sure that the fire of God will burn continually upon the altar of Judaism and never go out.” – Torat Moshe

Swing #3: “Even while the Israelites were journeying through the desert, God’s honor demanded that precautions be taken that this flame be kept going. According to Rabbi Yehudah, they used a kind of metal dome fixed above it to insure that it kept going.” – Chizkuni

Late-Inning Questions: Why do our commentators believe it was important for the Torah to emphasize the perpetual nature of the sanctuary flame? How does the Torah appreciate both the destructive and creative nature of fire? What things and ideas must remain eternal?

On-Deck at TBT: I look forward to Men’s Club Shabbat on Saturday, during which we will use the Sefer Haftarah scroll, a unique item meant to foster a greater appreciation and understanding of the ritual of chanting Haftarot. Hope to see you there.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of redundancy, it’s so exciting that much of the redundant, dead time between pitches of Major League games has been eliminated by the new pitch clock. Let’s hope the clock is here to stay.

Shabbat Shalom!