And the fire that shall burn on the alter you shall not extinguish (Lev. 6:6)

This passage is familiar to anyone who has had a regular practice of saying korbanot every morning as they prepare for their Shacharit (morning prayers). When we read the parts of the Torah that give us the priests’ instructions for daily sacrifices before our Shacharit and Minchah, we may connect our davening to those ancient practices. We may have in mind that the prayers that we engage in in the morning and in the evening stand in for the tamid offerings of the morning and afternoon.

But why should that inspire us? What’s the importance of what priests used to do in the Temple two thousand years ago to my spiritual focus and growth right now? Why is this relevant?

The key is in the verse quoted above. Our ideal is to have a fire that is never extinguished. We should perpetually be able to elevate our thoughts, intentions, and actions to God.

But is this achievable? Is it even desirable? It seems impossible to achieve because we are constantly distracted, constantly drawn away from spirituality. Besides, we have genuine concerns here in the practical realm. We need to make a living, look after our physical health, complete projects, etc.

To address the first concern, achievability, we can acknowledge that spiritual heights are always attained temporarily, and that we do go back to our normal lives.  But we go back with memory of the insights we gained and the ideals that we work towards. And the more often we “keep the fire of our altar lit,” the more our higher ideals and wisdom may guide us in our actions in the real world. The whole point is that our spiritual regimen should be regular enough to influence us towards growth.

Let us keep this in mind as we progress from Purim to Pesach, and then, through the counting of the Omer, from Pesach to receiving the Torah on Shavuot.

Shabbat Shalom!

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