Parshat Tzav: Keeping the fire up

In the previous portion of the Torah, Vayikra, the different kind of offerings for the tabernacle are described in detail, and in Tzav the attention is focused on the kohen gadol, the high priest. As we mentioned in our commentary on Vayikra, the high priest represents the highest level of consciousness through which we are able to communicate and relate to our Creator.

In Tzav, which is the imperative form of the Hebrew verb to command, there are clear indications for Moses to instruct Aaron and his sons (also his future descendants) to follow specific instructions from which one echoes among our sages.


“And the fire upon the altar shall be kept burning in it; it shall not be put out.”, (and later emphasized): “A constant fire shall burn upon the altar, it shall never go out.” (Leviticus 6:5-6)


Rabbi Moshe Alshich (1521-1593) explains in his commentary on the Torah that the fire burning in the tabernacle is the love for God that burns within every soul, and says that the task of the high priest is to maintain permanently lit this fire, as God’s love is constantly present for us. It is a reciprocal love in which we see in the altar both divine and human fires blended together in one.


Again we evoke our sages on the high priest’s role.


“Be of the disciples of Aaron, a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah.” (Pirkei Avot 1:12)


In its constant connection with God’s love, our higher consciousness is endowed to harmonize the lower aspects of our human traits, bringing them together to also achieve closeness to the Creator. This is the purpose of the sacrifices in the altar.


We experience constant, permanent awareness of God’s love as our essence and identity when our higher awareness is guiding all levels of consciousness. Why God’s commandment to keep the fire of our love for Him constantly burning is mentioned twice? There are many commandments in the Torah that are repeated several times, and in their repetition there is an implicit warning: if we don’t fulfill them, we separate from Him.


It is always our choice to separate from God’s love, but let’s never forget that He never separates from us. The semantic root in Hebrew for commandment, mitzvah, also means connection. This reference is clearly related to God in the context of the Torah. We learn from parshat Tzav that we are solely responsible to empower our higher consciousness, the high priest of our awareness of God, to maintain our closeness to Him.


We are here in this world to be and do our Creator’s ways and attributes. In order to fulfill this divine destiny we have to constantly embrace Him with the most ardent love, like a fire that never extinguishes. Let’s never forget that this fire, His and ours, is the unbreakable bond that nurtures and sustains us.


“It is their portion, which I have given to them from My fire.” (Leviticus 6:10)


This divine fire is God’s love.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Zefat.
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