Tzav, this week’s parsha, documents the commandments of the High Priests, the kohanim. Famously, it describes the eternal light, the ner tamid, in the Tabernacle: “The fire on the altar shall be kept burning, not to go out: every morning the priest shall feed wood to it, lay out the burnt offering on it, and turn into smoke the fat parts of the offerings of well-being.” But this parsha offers far more insight into leading a virtuous life beyond the walls of the sanctuary.
It has been taught that every aspect of the Jewish soul runs parallel to the physical characteristics of the sanctuary. In other words, Tzav teaches that our inner-fires must never be extinguished too. But what does it mean to live with the courage of our convictions, to bravely fuel our fires? As I write this D’var Torah on the 13th of Adar, I can think of but one example: Mordechai.
Mordechai is one of the Purim story’s principal characters. As Esther’s adoptive father, he advises her as she thwarts Haman’s malicious plot to destroy the Jewish people. In Megillat Esther, there are countless instances of Mordechai rigidly adhering to his convictions, even through adversity. Despite King Ahasuerus’ edict that all visitors bow to Haman, Mordechai refused. And learning of Haman’s malevolent decree, Mordechai “tore his clothes and wore a sackcloth” in mourning, refusing the clothes Esther offered even though the sackcloth prohibited his entrance into the palace. Mordechai’s virtuous behavior ultimately saved the Jewish people across Persia; it teaches us why keeping our inner-fires lit is commanded in the Torah.
The Maggid of Mezeritch, celebrated disciple of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, has an alternative interpretation, however. He believes, “that instead of reading the phrase, ‘It shall not be put out,’ we can read it, ‘It will put out the “not.”’ [This fire] extinguishes the negative. It takes the Jew past the threshold of commitment where he stands in hesitation and says ‘No.’” Just as the flame in the Tabernacle is never extinguished, we must extinguish all notions of “cannot.” Approach your goals with the belief that nothing is impossible.
Although the ubiquitous “March Slump” and the infamous senioritis have threatened to render me apathetic, rallying behind the Jewish community in Ukraine in the last few weeks has reminded me to fuel my inner-flame. A significant portion of the global Jewish community is facing a challenge that I can't begin to comprehend. I hope this crisis has rung your mind’s alarm, tugged at your heart, and fanned your inner-fire into a great flame too. As your chapter, council, region, country, and communities contribute to BBYO’s Teens United for Ukraine Campaign, may your flames remain lit. Or, perhaps more importantly, may you tackle this critical work having extinguished any and all ideas of “cannot.”
Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach,
Danny Freedman, 33rd Grand Aleph Shaliach
Northern Region East: Baltimore Council
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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