Rabbi Miriam's Blog
By Rabbinic Intern Gregory Metzger
“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 our careers and our lifes’s works; 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, the 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 have amazing experiences as an advocate and activist for Social Justice. I get to see casual and committed people JUST LIKE YOU come together and make a difference in the lives of thousands and of individuals.
Witnessing the “good works” and being inspired by the lights that I see in you and others shine 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!
Burnout and toxicity are replaced by joy and vitality when we make our offerings in community and with an open heart. I ask you to support our social justice committee and co-chairs, Renee and Vivian and offer your self - heart and soul." Witness and celebrate all the “good works” and inspired actions they and this holy community are leading.
Ahavat Torah of West Los Angeles
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.