Holy Fire | Three Aspects of Service to Hashem
Three flames were commanded to be kept burning on the altar, as Maimonides explains:
Three arrays of fire are to be made atop the altar each day: the first is a large fire on which the tamid and other sacrifices are burned; the second, to the side and smaller, is for taking coals in the pan to burn incense each day; the third has nothing on it but is only to fulfill the commandment concerning the fire, namely, “A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar” (Lev. 6:6). According to received tradition, this is derived from Scripture as follows: “where it is burned upon the altar” (v. 2) indicates the large array of fire, “while the fire on the altar is kept going on it” (ibid.) indicates the second array for the incense, and “the fire on the altar shall be kept burning” (v. 5) indicates the third array to maintain the fire.
All in all, Maimonides cites three verse in this week’s reading to derive the halakhah concerning the three arrays of fire that we were commanded to make on the altar daily. Let us try to fathom the significance of this commandment and what we can learn from it.