Tzav: Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36
“The Light of Our Heart”
My approach to Torah understands the text as myth or spiritual parables and definitely not as reality. I presuppose that, as such, the stories it conveys speak of universal archetypes relating to the human spiritual journey and, most often, seek to unpack the deeper meaning of the text often as if I was interpreting a dream or a vision.
The burnt offering shall remain where it is burned upon the altar all night until morning, while the fire on the altar is kept aflame…. The Kohen shall… remove the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt offering on the altar and place them next to the altar. He shall then… carry the ashes outside the camp to a pure place. The fire on the altar shall be kept burning, it shall not be extinguished; and the Kohen shall kindle wood upon it every morning…
What if the burnt offering represented, here, the waking hours of our day? Was relating to how we “burn up” our time and energy? If lived mindfully, every day of our lives can become an offering of the best we have to give. Each day lived to the fullest is a day we didn’t hold back and shared the choicest aspect of our self regardless of our circumstances; a day we stepped into the “fire” of life fully and with great gusto. Though not a rabbi himself, G.B. Shaw could very well have been reflecting on these verses when he said: “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.”
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem M. Schneerson, teaches us that “every aspect of the physical Sanctuary has its counterpart in the inward Sanctuary.” That is to say, that every aspect of the described outer Tabernacle in Torah represents an aspect of our inner being. For the rebbe, the human “heart is the Altar.” [Torah Studies; Tzav] Our offering, therefore, has to be “burned upon the” heart. The teaching here is that our giving, our actions in the world — in order to be a pure expression of our True Self — necessarily have to come from the heart space. This kind of actions cannot be reasoned, premeditated or calculated. They spontaneously arise of their own when we are radically present to the moment as it unfolds.
Furthermore, the Torah seems to be saying that as we practice acting from the radically present heart, the shadow of our subconscious and the limitations of our deeply rooted conditioning begin to dissolve. What is being “burned upon the altar,” is “all night:” all the dark aspects of our self. And this continues “until morning;” until the dawn of the Light of Being that eventually outshines our inner darkness. There is a caveat, however, to this process. We “shall… remove the ashes… and… carry [them] outside the camp to a pure place.” We have to let go of the ashes of our past at the end of each day; to enter into a process of releasing both the good and the bad of what was, whatever keeps us entangled to that past. We are not to deny it; what happened happened. But as we break free from its hold on us, we carry our past “outside the camp to a pure place,” so that it no longer clouds our way, blocking our own evolution. Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter of Ger writes: “The commandment here to remove the ashes hints that as we burn up the waste in our lives we are uplifted each day, and then we are given new light.” [S’fat Emet Commentary; Tzav]
This “new light” is the opportunity we have to “kindle [new] wood… every morning.” Every morning a fresh start with a heart clear of the ashes of yesterday, ready to live every moment in the radical fullness of the present. May the light of our heart shine in the most beautiful ways.