Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36) Does Your Flame of Life, Passion and Future Still Glow?

silhouette photography of jump shot of two persons
Photo by Jill Wellington on

This week we return to a major theme of Leviticus, the rites and procedures relating to the sacrificial system in Biblical times. Remember, this system is thousands of years old and disappeared after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. The rites and procedures are complex and, for many, represent an antiquated and primitive form of worship. However, as with all our texts, we need to step back from the literal and allow the text, as the blessing for Torah study reminds, to “speak” (la’asok) to us in our contemporary context.
So, in that sense, let me suggest we look this week at Leviticus 6: 5.
This text, which begins our portion, tells us that the offering shall remain on the altar all night until the morning “while the fire on the altar is kept going, do not extinguish it” The Hebrew of this part of the verse reads lo tukad bo. What can we make of these words today? Can these words bring us any message at this stage of life? Rabbi Abraham Twerski (z’l) in his “Living Each Week” (p.206) cites a comment by Rabbi Shneur Zalman, who saw these words as “do not extinguish it”. So, Rabbi Zalman, writes Twerski, said that “these words can also be interpreted “You must extinguish the lo, the negative”. In other words, “rid yourself of negativism”. An interesting suggestion for our world when we are confronted by so much negativity. It is a challenge to let go of the negative emotions and feelings that so often overwhelm us, yet studies have shown that this approach to life harms us. But it is a challenge!
An even more challenging interpretation can also be gleaned from these opening verses that speak of not allowing the flame to be extinguished. Twerski also notes the comment that the flame of the altar can be seen as a symbol of the flame of life, or devotion to life that rests within each of us. He notes that these verses can remind us “that the flame of the altar should burn within the person”. This is even more of a challenge for many, whose life seems to have lost that flame of passion and love of life itself. We see this is some people who seem to have just given up on living. Their passion for living, their zest for accepting new challenges or learning has gone out, they exist but do not live. Yes, there are many circumstances that impact our ability to keep that flame of life burning. Indeed, when one dies, it is as if that flame leaves the body and as a body ebbs, one can almost sense the flame of life dwindling. But, as Judaism, teaches, until those last moments, we have been given the freedom, right, ability, permission to never stop stoking that flame of life. In this way, we honor the sacred and our place in the continuing unfolding of life.
Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Richard F Address

Be the first to comment

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.