“Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continually; it shall not go out.”
– Leviticus 6:6, JPS 1917 Tanach
The olah remained on the mizbeach all night until the morning (Leviticus 6:2). This refers to the daily tamid offering; one lamb was brought as an offering in the morning, and one in the evening. The commandment for eish to be kept burning upon the mizbeach all night, was enacted throughout the nighttime as well, enabling the remaining parts of the evening olah, plus any additional offerings of the day, to continue burning. Additionally, two logs of wood were placed on the mizbeach in the morning, and again in the evening, as fuel for the sacred fire.
This fire that was kept continually burning upon the mizbeach, reflects the ideal devotion towards H’Shem that we should have on a continual basis. “To serve the L-RD thy G-d with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12, JPS). The olah offering of the morning and evening, may be understood to represent our devotion, throughout both the day and night. Additionally, the morning and afternoon services – shachris and mincha – relate to the two daily tamid offerings; whereas the evening service (maariv) has its complement, as pertaining to the remainders of the olah of the second tamid offering, and other offerings that burnt throughout the night.
The ner tamid, represented by the light above the ark in a synagogue, brings us even closer to an understanding of what H’Shem desires of us. In the Zohar, the “everlasting fire,” that is to be kept continually burning on the mizbeach, alludes to the divine light of the soul (Tikkunei Zohar 74a). As expressed elsewhere, “The spirit [neshama] of man is the lamp of the L-RD” (Proverbs 20:27). To connect with H’Shem (deveykus) on a continual basis, we need to engage every facet of ourselves – our thought, speech, and behavior – in an effort towards enhancing the light within us. As is demonstrated by the flame of a candle, that flickers upwards, just as our soul should reach up towards Shomayim.
“In Thy light we see light.” – Psalm 36:11, JPS 1917 Tanach