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Parashat Tzav

The story brings us the image of two flames that coexisted in the Mishkan: one was the Ner Tamid, the eternal and flickering flame that burned in the Menorah and that still burns in some way in our synagogues. The second flame was the Esh Tamid, which was the fire that was used in the sacrifices that had to be kept alive day and night on the altar, the Mizbeach.

Our tradition teaches us that both fires must be kept burning within us. While the Esh Tamid was an intense and scorching fire, so must be the enthusiasm that we put into each of our acts embedded in Torah and our Judaism. Its' about maintaining the exaltation of the Jewish spirit in each of our actions.

But this strong enthusiasm and exaltation could lead us to feel excessive pride. It would be the example of those who see in our people the only existing truth and who are filled with pride with the vanity that leads to intolerance towards the differences of others. Those who feel they own the truth, discriminating even within our people. Or leaving out those that by force of our tradition and laws, we should embrace.

When I was little, it used to be used a lot, for example, the word shikse or shiksa. It was common, and still is in some families, to use those words. The origin of that expression is really nefarious. The meaning of sheketz or the root shin-kuf-tzadi refers to something abominable, despicable. The daily use of shiksa led to calling the non-Jewish girl that way and almost specifically the domestic worker who worked in the Jewish house (and who usually had another origin). Probably because on occasion the single male in the house might have some intention of approaching her as a woman, and calling her that way from the moment he was a child, would discourage him from doing so.

It is in this type of attitude that the Ner Tamid appears: the eternal flame, but wavering, flickering. It is not a powerful and scorching fire, but a modest, small light that maintains that internal warmth that helps us continue even in adverse moments, bringing within us the memory of our past and that of our people.

It is that thin but enormously resistant thread that keeps us united with our past: the individual past and the collective past as a people and that makes us feel like family with each other in our small nuclei of kinship and in COMMUNITY. And it is that flame that reminds us that we ourselves were discriminated against and mistreated for being different from others and compels us to avoid committing the same fault with others around us.

The Midrash says that all the sacrifices came to amend something that the individual himself had deteriorated with his own hands. The Korban Asham or of guilt was carried out for various transgressions that had been committed. The expiation one, Korban Chatat, was for involuntary sins. The Korban Olah was because of bad thoughts.

The Korban Todah is different from all. This offering was brought without any transgression. It was the one that was brought from the soul for simply thanking. It is pure surrender. And it would be the only offering, the only korban that would not be canceled in the future. All korbanot are going to be canceled except this one, which is unique and incomparable.

The korbanot or offerings represented the approach to the Creator through the scorching fire, maintaining the internal flame. And the best of all, was the one who kept the kavvanah, the intention, intact and pure.

To thank. Recognize that we are small and weak, and above all, change our attitudes or daily expressions regarding those around us, in order to keep the fires in their proper measure to make this world a better world for all of us.

Gustavo Geier


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