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A Constant Flame

Torah Thoughts on Parshas Tzav by Avi Zisook

"צַו אֶת אַהֲרֹן וְאֶת בָּנָיו לֵאמֹר זֹאת תּוֹרַת הָעֹלָה הִוא הָעֹלָה עַל מוֹקְדָה עַל הַמִזְבֵּחַ כׇּל הַלַיְלָה עַד הַבֹּקֶר וְאֵשׁ הַמִזְבֵּחַ תּוּקַד בּוֹ"  וַיִקְרָא ו':ב'

“Command Aharon and his sons, saying: ‘This is the law of the Olah offering. It is the Olah offering [that stays] on the flame, on the Mizbe’ach, all night, until the morning, and the fire of the Mizbe’ach shall be kept aflame on it.’ ”  Vayikra 6:2

Within the verses which are the mitzvah of the regular, twice-daily Olah offering, the Torah commands the sons of Aharon three times to ensure that the fire on the Altar not be extinguished. The obvious question that arises is why the Torah, which does not waste words, felt it necessary to repeat this command so many times within a short space.

The Kli Yakar presents two explanations. He explains that the Torah was placing distinct methods of ensuring that the fire would not be extinguished. The Torah initially only issues a positive commandment (v. 2). Then the Torah adds an additional positive commandment and a negative commandment (v. 5). Finally, the Torah adds another positive and negative commandment (v. 6), but with the added express requirement of there being an uninterrupted continuity of the flame. He provides another answer, explaining that the three sets allude to the three תְּפִילוֹת that we say each day: Shacharis, Mincha, and Maariv.

The Kli Yakar’s explanation leaves room to understand why this specific commandment necessitates five distinct mitzvos for what seems to be a simple commandment of keeping a fire lit.

In Chumash Magen Tzvi, Rav Zvi Magence explains the unique nature of the fire on the Altar. Unlike other fires, this fire was initiated as a fire which descended from the heavens. However, the flame did not remain on the Altar through a miracle. In order to keep this flame lit, the Kohanim were required to constantly replenish the wood on the pyre. This system formed a bond between the Jewish people and Hashem. The bond between the Jewish people and Hashem is not one which can be sustained merely by inertia, but it needs to be constantly strengthened. The way that we strengthen this bond is by doing mitzvos.

With this understanding, both explanations of the Kli Yakar are actually one and the same. Hashem gave us multiple mitzvos for the seemingly simple task of keeping this flame lit in order for us to stay connected, and in the absence of the actual flame, we can stay connected through the three תְּפִילוֹת we say each day.


Avi Zisook is a third generation talmid of HTC. Avi (FYHS Class of 2004) learned in Israel at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh for 2 years, then returned for Beis Midrash (Class of 2008). He stayed on as Head Dorm Counselor (among other job duties) for an additional 4 years while pursuing a law degree at John Marshall Law School. He practices law as Legal Counsel for the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. Avi was recently elected Co-President of Mizrachi-Religious Zionists of Chicago. He resides with his family in West Rogers Park.

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