Friday, March 30, 2012

Tzav 5772

This week's portion, Tzav (Leviticus 6:1 - 8:36) begins with the instructions to the priests about keeping a fire burning perpetually on the altar of ancient Israel.

The Hasidic masters, in their beautifully perceptive allegorical way of reading the Torah, understood the altar as the human heart and the fire that burns perpetually as the spiritual passion that keeps the heart engaged in a life of meaning and purpose.

Rabbi Shefa Gold has this to share about the image under consideration:


TZAV ASKS US TO ENTER WITHIN and inspect the condition of the innermost fire upon the altar of the heart. We are challenged to look at our lives and ask the serious and probing questions about what supports that fire as well as what puts it out.

The fire itself speaks to me and says, "You must provide the spark. Be with the people who spark your creativity and enthusiasm. Keep reading and learning. Seek out places of beauty. Let yourself be challenged by difficult and interesting projects. Make music and colorful art. Travel to exotic places. Find reasons to celebrate."

Seeing that I am listening, the fire grows bolder saying, "And I need space to burn. Spacious air. The breath of life. Spirit. Wind. Open spaces. If you schedule every minute of your day; if you fill the silence with words; if you clutter up your life with so much stuff ... how can you expect me to have enough space to burn?"

The fire begins to open to me and so I speak to her directly. "What will you use as fuel? What keeps you burning?"

The fire flickers brightly at my question and whispers, "The love that you give and the love that you receive... that is my fuel. For love is as fierce as death... no river can sweep it away" (Song of Songs 8:6-7).

"AND ONE MORE THING," says the fire, flashing righteously, "you must remove the dead ashes every day. I cannot burn clean and pure if the refuse of the past is allowed to accumulate within you. Each morning you must remove that which is old and done" (Click here for the full peirush/interpretation).

What is the fire that burns within you? How do you sustain it? How do you clean out the old to make way for the new? Please use our comments section of the blog to share your own spiritual insights into this parasha.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Jonathan E. Blake