Inside OutApril 9, 2014 - 5:00 am
“He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. He is to put the incense on the fire before the LORD, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die.” — Leviticus 16:12–13
The Torah portion for this week is Acharei Mot, which means “after the death,” from Leviticus 16:1–18:30, and the Haftorah is from Amos 9:7–15.
Have you ever felt like you are running on empty? In our fast-paced society with overloaded schedules, it’s easy to push ourselves to do more without taking care of our most basic needs. While no doubt the endless errands and projects that we pursue in the outside world are important, it’s even more important to take care of our inner world. This is because how we are faring on the inside greatly affects what we do on the outside. When we push ourselves to run on empty, we aren’t doing anyone any favors, least of all ourselves. We’re simply headed for a breakdown!
In this week’s Torah portion, we learn about the service performed by the High Priest on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. As part of the service, the priest was to bring incense into the Holy of Holies, the most sacred room of the Temple. A dispute arose among the rabbis about whether the incense was to be lit outside the Holy of Holies and then brought inside, or if the priest was to light the incense once inside the sacred room. Ultimately, it was ruled that the priest was to light the incense inside the Holy of Holies. This ruling has practical applications – not just for the Yom Kippur service, but for our lives as well.
The Sages explain that the requirement for the priest to light the incense while inside the holy room teaches us that when we serve God, the place to start is inside the sanctuary of our own souls. Only once we have lit a fire on the inside can we turn outward. The way to illuminate the world is from the inside out and not the other way around. We can go about our lives trying to inspire others, but if we haven’t first lit the fires of inspiration within our own souls, we will have a very hard time lighting anyone else’s fire. If we want to make the world a better place, we had better start with ourselves.
We can spend our lives running on empty, but it is much more effective to take the time and fill up our tanks. Only a pail full of water can water plants. Only a candle that is burning can light another wick. And only a person brimming with inspiration can effectively inspire others.
What brings you inspiration? What lights up your soul? It is essential that we take time for prayer, Bible study, and whatever else keeps our fires burning. When our souls are full, there is no telling how far we can go.