“Never” – or hardly ever?
The Talmud Yerushalmi tells us (Yoma 4:6) that the fire must never be allowed to go out, af b’massa’ot – “even during (the people’s) travels”. When the people were on the move the fire was carried in a covered vessel so that it would remain alight.
Taken literally, this law ensures that there is never any hiatus in the altar fire. Looked at, in addition, symbolically, it has a message for the Jewish people wherever they happen to be.
Only if they carry the burning fire of Jewish feeling in their hearts are they safe as Jews. Not even changed circumstances, urgent challenges and pressing priorities must be allowed to weaken their Judaism. Otherwise Judaism will suffer, and they themselves will be the losers and they will be spiritually adrift without a guide or anchor.
The individual Jew should also remember when away from home on holiday or business that the mitzvot should come too. Shabbat never takes a holiday. Kashrut does not change because you are not at home. Jewish morality too, like all the mitzvot, is part of living the Jewish life “when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up.”
The flame of Judaism must not be allowed to flicker, wherever you are.