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    Inner fire – Tzav

    Describing the altar, the Torah says, “The fire on it shall be kept burning” (Lev. 5:6).

    The word bo (“on it”) can also be translated “in him”, which leads Rabbi Amiel, former chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, to remark, following the Midrash, that in a sense there was an inner fire within the person who bore or brought the offering.

    The inner fire was to be found not only in the olah, the burnt offering consumed entirely on the altar, but also in the person who was totally immersed in God and Judaism. It was also in the sh’lamim, part of which was available for human beings to eat: this symbolically suggests that even a person who is less than total in religious commitment has an inner fire and should never be derided or dismissed.

    Rabbi Amiel’s interpretation is especially pertinent in these weeks before Pesach. Whatever a person’s level of observance, all are welcome at Seder. A similar thought applies to Sukkot: all four species of plants need to be held together for there to be a b’rachah, as all categories of Jew need to feel part of each other in order to have a community.

    Yom Kippur illustrates the same principle. At the beginning of the Kol Nidrei service, we solemnly declare it permitted to pray with transgressors.

    There is a book by Alfred Goldberg entitled “A Jew Went Roaming”. It is a fascinating title, for Pesach and the whole calendar of Jewish occasions remind us that however far a Jew goes roaming, they can always come home and rejoin their people.

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