Taking care of our Souls as well as our Bodies
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
It is written in the beginning of this week’s parashah: “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. A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, not to go out.” (Vayikra 6:5-6)
According to these verses, there had to be a perpetual fire burning on the altar at the Mishkan, tabernacle. This fire served as a basis for the fire that burned the sacrifices. It should always be burnt, so the Cohanim, the priests, had to feed it every morning with new logs. It was located in the external space of the Mishkan.
What would this perpetual fire symbolize? This fire could symbolize God’s eternal presence in the Mishkan.
Chumash Etz Hayim explains this perpetual fire saying that it expressed the Israelites’ devotion to God by showing that they were attendant on Him at all times in the sanctuary.
This perpetual fire could also symbolize our souls, our internal fires. It is written in the book of Proverbs 20:27: “The lamp of God is the soul of a person.” It refers to the divine spark that we have inside our souls, what makes us special. The perpetual fire reminds us that we have a divine spark in our souls.
The priests had to feed the fire everyday in order to keep it glowing. In a similar way, we should feed our souls every day in order to increase the flame of our inner fire.
We are living an unprecedent crises in the entire world. We need to be isolated in order to protect ourselves and the people around us. We need to stay at home and take care of ourselves. We need to take care of our bodies and we also need to take care of our souls, even in this time of fear, uncertainty, and desolation.
It is written in the Torah: “Only guard yourself and guard your soul very much” (Devarim 4:9). This means that it is a mitzvah to care for our bodies, as well as our souls.
Rabbi Jacob Isaac of Lublin, a Hasidic rabbi in the early Hasidic movement, known as “the Seer of Lublin” (1745 -1815) explains this verse: “Be as careful with the health of your soul as you are with the health of your body.”
The mystics teach that the fire within us need both our attention and our care, and that with the effort of study, prayer, and the performance of mitzvot, we can make the spark glow brightly and even grow.
Thus, even in these days, we need to take care of our souls as well as our bodies. We need to feed our inner fires daily. How? Doing activities that your soul loves to do like studying, praying, performing mitzvot, reading, writing, listening to music, dancing, painting, etc. All the activities that help you to elevate the divine spark that lives in your soul.
This week’s parashah, describing the perpetual fire that was inflamed in the Mishkan, reminds us about our inner fires. In this difficult time, we need to remember about the importance of taking care of ourselves. We need to nurture our bodies as well as our souls.