Parshas Tzav – Torah Themes

Passionate Fire

Our parsha talks about the korbonos and the mitzvah to have one fire always burning on the mizbayach. “Aish tamid tukad al hamizbayach lo sichveh.” This verse is explained by various sources to contain many relevant and important ideas.

The seforim bring down that if one wants to save himself from bad thoughts, he should say or think of this verse (Pelah Yoetz and others). What is the significance of this verse and its special power? Below are three explanations.

1) Yalkut Reuveni quotes the Zohar which says, “aish tamid refers to Torah, which is an inextinguishable fire. Even if one sins, the fire of Torah is not extinguished.”

The study of Torah is one that purifies our hearts, minds and souls. Thus, when one recites this verse it reminds him to pursue purity and to dedicate one’s energies into Torah study. More so, Rav Tzadok and the Steipler both explain that Torah study can bring one forgiveness for any sins committed between man and God and man and himself. There are certain avairos which seforim say are not forgivable or are difficult to get forgiveness from, this refers to doing repentance and through mitzvah performance alone. However, Torah study has the power to wipe one’s slate clean and can get rid of any sin, no matter how bad. Just as a fire burns out all impurities, so too, the fire of Torah burns away all impurities and sins in one’s heart and mind. That is what “aish tamid” evokes.

2) This verse and this mitzvah appear odd. Chazal say that one of the miracles of the beis hamikdash is that a fire would come down from heaven to consume the sacrifices. If that is the case, why is there a mitzvah for the Jews to ensure there is always a fire lit on the altar? Chazal themselves ask this question and say, “even though fire comes down from heaven, it is a mitzvah for us to provide it down here as well.” What does that mean?

Sefer Hachinuch explains that even when Hashem does miracles, He still wants to maintain the order of the world and so it is covered up as much as possible. Aish tamid reminds us that Hashem is really the one who does everything. However, we must put in the earthly effort required of us to allow it to happen. When we remember that Hashem is the one who gives us strength and that we are responsible. So too, to banish negative thoughts, we must do our part and put in our efforts.

3) Rav Moshe Cordovero (1522 – 1570, predecessor of the Arizal) explains that if one is stranded in the forest and night falls, he is afraid for his life. He sees the animal lurking to eat him alive. The solution is to light a camp fire and if needed to surround himself with the fire to scare the animals away. So too, this verse teaches us, that the fire of Torah has the power to ward off any evil thought and predator. The lesson is that when we have a passion for truth and for service of Hashem, this will banish the negative thoughts and will allow us to charge forward in our purity and service of Hashem.

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