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Weekly D'rash Tsav

Fire is one of the most significant developments in human history. It allowed people to eat different kinds of food and live in parts of the world that would otherwise have been uninhabitable. It gives us light and heat. In a way, it gives us life as we know it. In the Bible, fire is often used as a symbol of either judgment or blessing. In Exodus 3, it symbolizes the presence of God in the burning bush; and in Exodus 40 it symbolizes the presence of God in the wilderness.

Our Torah portion this week focuses on the responsibilities of the priesthood in the offering of sacrifices. Lev 6:9, 12, & 13 command the priests to keep the fire of the burnt offering continuously burning. The fire must never go out. No reason is given for this. It is surmised that this fire came from the Lord (Lev 9:24) and therefore must never be extinguished. The fire reminds us of the perpetual presence of God among the people, and it also symbolizes the constant devotion of the people to God. At Beth Messiah, above the Aron HaKodesh (Holy Ark) where the Torah scrolls are kept, there is a lamp that is perpetually lit. It is called the Ner Tamid or Eternal Light. It symbolizes the ever presence of God among us. The perpetual fire of the burnt offering reminds us of our devotion to God and the importance of keeping our fire burning.

To keep the fire burning means to always be attentive to our calling as a Holy Priesthood. Since we do not do animal sacrifices, we do not need to keep the fire pit aglow behind our building. Rather, we need to continue to stay strong in the Lord, day and night—to always be wholeheartedly devoted to God in all our relationships, our vocation, and every aspect of life. We do this through the building blocks that we have heard since the day we embraced Yeshua. We must stay in the word of God, prayer, and community. In addition, we must have periods of rest to be refreshed. By doing so, we are continuing to throw logs on the fire. In the 12th chapter of Romans, we read about being a living sacrifice. This is defined as being always available to God. But to truly be a living sacrifice, we need to have the fire constantly burning. If we try to be a sacrifice (i.e., serving God day and night, always busy serving and working for the Lord), without having the fire stoked, the fire will burn out and we will burn out. We will not be a “living sacrifice.”

This week is the holiday of Purim. Esther takes a big risk in going to the king to save the Jewish people from destruction. But notice what she says in Esther 4:4. The first thing she tells everyone to do is fast for three days. May I suggest that Esther had the fire of God stoked internally. She was able to be a “living sacrifice” because the fire was burning, which is evidenced by the fast. Let us learn a lesson from both our Torah portion and Esther. Make sure the fire is continuously burning. Let us be people who fast and pray, people who recognize our covenant calling in Yeshua. Let us make sure that the fire of God never goes out!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Howard

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