Parshat Tzav: The Eternal Flame
אֵ֗שׁ תָּמִ֛יד תּוּקַ֥ד עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ לֹ֥א תִכְבֶּֽה׃
A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, not to be extinguished.
Whether it’s the fire that burned in the lowest bush of the Egyptian desert,
or the light above the ark in synagogues across the world –
Whether it’s the flames of hope kindled in windows at the heart of winter,
or the match held by parent and child as they light candles together on Shabbat –
Whether it’s the arm of a survivor, proof of the people who cannot be consumed,
or the light gleaming off the stones of the Western wall –
Our flame is still burning.
The Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans tried to extinguish it, but they could not. For the last two thousand years many who justified hate with the echo of Haman’s vitriol – “there is a people different from all the others” – tried to extinguish it, but they could not. This verse is not a commandment, but a promise. We may not have an altar, nor a fire burning on top of it, but like the Torah which our rabbis call Black Fire on White Fire, there is a deeper flame within our tradition and within us, one which cannot be extinguished. It is the tenacity of the generations, which inspires us and gives us hope. It is the depth of our heritage, ancient in its wisdom. It is the story of our people which is still being told.