Beit Midrash

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Is Keeping the Old Going New?

Our parasha introduces the idea of an “eternal flame,” which, contrary to what many think, was not on the menora but on the larger mizbe’ach (altar) upon which most of the korbanot were brought.


Rabbi Daniel Mann

Adar II 12 5782
Our parasha introduces the idea of an "eternal flame," which, contrary to what many think, was not on the menora but on the larger mizbe’ach (altar) upon which most of the korbanot were brought (see Vayikra 6:6). The altar actually hosted multiple flames, used for different purposes, including for lighting the menora and providing fire for the small mizbe’ach for ketoret (incense) (Yoma 45a-b). There was also one flame designated as the everlasting flame. Actually, Chazal report that the fire that came down from the Heaven when Bnei Yisrael dedicated the Mishkan (Vayikra 10:2) lasted until the Mishkan was replaced by the Beit Hamikdash, several hundred years later (Zevachim 61b).

Thus, there does not seem to have been a need to rekindle a fire on the altar from scratch. What was needed was providing fuel on a regular basis (Rambam, Temidin 2:2 – twice a day) and not extinguishing the existing fire (Vayikra 6:6; see Rashi ad loc.). Certainly, there was not a need to light a new flame before bringing a new korban (see Rav S.R. Hirsch to Vayikra 1:7). Yet, in one place (Vayikra 1:7) the Torah describes a specific korban as involving a kohen bringing fire to the altar for it, and Chazal speak about not sufficing with the fire from Above but that there is a mitzva to bring normal fire as well (Yoma 53a). The Rambam (Temidin 2:1) seems to understand that this mitzva is fulfilled by making the normal efforts to make sure that the fire does not go out, including by running out of fuel. Apparently then, the fire that is described as being brought for a specific, personal korban is also referring to using that which is already there.

Rav Hirsch (ibid.) explains that the fire of the mizbe’ach represents the Torah, which is referred to as eish dat (the teachings of fire) – Devarim 33:2). If this is the case, then we can provide the following philosophical perspective on the matter of different types of fire – divine; normal, existing, new fire; … and, especially, Torah. (Excuse me as I switch back and forth between the metaphor and the original subject.) The Torah came down from Hashem in a miraculous manner. However, since then, it is preserved, passed on, and in some paradoxical ways enhanced by human intervention. Man is commanded to "add fuel daily" and make sure "not to extinguish the fire" but to "keep it going eternally." Thus, the Torah is a fire of divine origin, which is later attributed to man as well (Torah dilei hoo – Kiddushin 32b). Not only nationally but also individually when we are involved in Torah, we are not only considered keeping the flame/Torah going but like one who lit the fire himself

May we always savor the opportunity to connect ourselves to the eternal flame of the Torah and be considered as lighting it.

את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר