Keeping the Fire Alive
“Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering: That is the burnt offering which burns on the altar all night . . . And the fire on the altar shall burn on it; it shall not go out. The kohen shall kindle wood upon it every morning . . . A continuous fire shall burn upon the altar; it shall not go out.” – Leviticus 6:1-6
It is not easy to keep the fire alive – to maintain passion in the pursuit of recovery; the pursuit of our careers and our life’s work; The pursuit of self improvement; and the pursuit of peace and social justice. The Torah understands this and not only commands us to keep the flames burning, but also guides us on how to do it.
“And the fire on the altar shall burn on it; it shall not go out. The kohen shall kindle wood upon it every morning, and upon it, he shall arrange the burnt offering and cause the fats of the peace offerings to [go up] . . . upon it.” – Leviticus 6:5
Our pursuits require energy. They require constant renewal. This flame is kindled initially by Love, by Desire, by a bright vision of the future. They may otherwise be kindled by another vision: by anger and outrage at the injustice, the violence, brutality and suffering. Were this SPARK enough to keep the fire burning, it would be easy. We could just dream, or read the paper, watch the news and study current events. There is enough fuel to burn and burn and burn. But Love, Desire, Anger and Outrage are not enough – in fact, when talking about “Expanding the boundaries of Justice in this world” anger and outrage alone, will put the fire out. Our efforts produce results that spirit us forward, but we also burn out.
“. . . And he shall lift out the ashes into which the fire has consumed the burnt offering upon the altar, and put them down next to the altar. He shall then take off his garments and put on other garments, and he shall take out the ashes to a clean place outside the camp.” – Leviticus 6:3-4
The Sfat Emet says that “according to the burning of the refuse, so is the measure of the holiness of the person.” He suggests that we can offer our negativity and transform it, make it holy through fire. However, the energy of desire, of anger and of outrage produce toxic residue – ashes that will suffocate the fire. We must find a way to remove this negativity, to purify ourselves from the toxic ashes that come from confronting evil.
“And this is the law of the peace offering, which he shall bring to the Lord. If he is bringing it as a thanksgiving offering . . . the flesh of his thanksgiving peace offering shall be eaten on the day it is offered up; he shall not leave any of it over until morning.” – Leviticus 7:12-15
The way to purify ourselves from the toxicity of the negative that builds from pushing forward on the power desire, the fuel of anger and outrage is to eat of the joy from the offerings of thanksgiving. This flame may be kindled by our loving desires or our response to injustice, violence, brutality and suffering. But it is stoked and made brighter by offerings made in gratitude.
It is easy to fall prey to the negative. We have been working to better the world for a long time and there is so much left to do. We are bombarded by messages that would tell us that we are failing. These messages are ash and they are lies. The truth is our thanksgiving. The truth is that your participation in Tikkun Olam makes a difference.
I had an amazing experience as the Rabbinic Intern at Jewish World Watch. We seek to end genocide and mass atrocities wherever and to whom ever they happen. There I saw casual and committed people come together and make a difference in the lives of thousands by:
They brought the world a little closer to peace by -
Witnessing the “good works” and being inspired by the lights that we see shining in you and others is the gratitude that stokes the fire!
It is said that in the world to come, there will be no negativity and no war and no guilt and no need to make the Korbon (the sacrifices), yet we will continue to bring the thanksgiving offering! In the fight to end genocide, our fire and passion was lit by the power of our response to atrocities. To keep this fire alive, we need you to join us in celebrating the progress we have made toward peace and the comfort we bring.
I ask you as individuals, and as members of this community to join the Walk to End Genocide on May 20 in LA. Keep the fire alive!
Sign up for the Walk to End Genocide at www.walktoendgenocide.org.