Weekly Torah Commentary — Tzav March 14, 2014

TZAV Leviticus/Vayikra 6 – 8

In this week’s Torah commentary we read God’s command to Moses that the fire on the Sacrificial Altar must never be extinguished or allowed to go out.

“The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” (Leviticus 6:6)

We learn in Torah that God dwells in the hearts of those who love Him and keep His commandments and that His visible dwelling in the Tabernacle in the wilderness was a sign to Israel of His desire to live through them; that the nation would be a living tabernacle of His presence in the world.

We also know that everything in Torah has a message for us today, even those areas where it may seem difficult to find the relevance; areas like the sacrifices. This week’s Torah portion, as did last week’s, gives us yet another insight into the connection between the Tabernacle of old and ourselves.
The verse quoted above, states that the fire kindled on the Sacrificial Altar was to burn continually and was never to go out. If God dwells in your heart and in mine – and He does – then it follows that the fire of love for Him must be continually alive and burning within us as well.

Because the Sacrificial Altar was in the outer courtyard of the Tabernacle, the nation could see the smoke ascending to the heavens at all times. It was not a hidden fire by any means! Neither is our fire meant to be hidden! The fire of the ardent love of God in our hearts must be seen in an outward and open manner. How? By our behavior, by our demeanor, by our words, by our actions and reactions; in other words, by our daily life activities and decisions. Others should be able to know that we love our God.

How do we keep the love aflame?

First and foremost, the fire of love for God will not burn brightly in the person who spends little time in His presence. It is not enough to simply participate in ‘formal prayer’ or ‘book prayer’. Certainly ritual has its place, but it is not enough. The Torah says clearly that God wants us to know Him and to walk in His ways.

I ask you – how well would you ‘know’ your spouse if all you ever did was exchange formulated words each day, taken from a book someone else put together for your use?

It is difficult, if not impossible, to develop a burning love for God without spending regular time in ‘personal prayer’ – by that I mean, speaking to God in your own words, meditating on passages from the Torah, the Psalms, the Prophets, and listening for what He described to Elijah as ‘the still, small voice within.’

Some would say that God does not speak to us today. I vehemently disagree. He is speaking to us all the time. The question is: are we listening? Perhaps the bigger question is: have we learned HOW to recognize His voice in the midst of daily life?

Just as Shabbat goes out this week, the festival of Purim begins, commemorating the time when Queen Esther saved the Jewish people from destruction through prayer, fasting and approaching the King personally to present her request. She is a model of exactly what we have been discussing. Nowhere in the book of Esther do we read that she resorted to formula prayers. She prayer in her own words, crying out to God for the deliverance of her people from the decree of death. In turn, God showed her exactly what she was to do to participate in the deliverance He would grant in answer to her prayers.

Let us like Esther, learn to take every petition, every concern, every desire to Him in prayer.

In Tune with Torah this week = renewing our commitment – or making a new one – to spend at least ten minutes each day, hopefully more, conversing with God in our own words; talking with Him as with a best friend, for in fact, there is not better Friend than Him. And taking time to sit quietly, learning to listen to His still, small voice within us.

Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach

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