From the Inside Out

Yael Eckstein  |  April 19, 2021

Temple of eternal flame

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.” — Leviticus 16:12

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, from Leviticus 16:1—20:27. Acharei Mot means death, and Kedoshim means holy.

My happy place is at the beach. There is something about the ocean that makes me feel calm and close to God. Thankfully, I live less than a twenty-minute ride from the Mediterranean, but with my busy schedule balancing work and family, it’s not easy to find time to go very often.

But a wise friend once told me to make time to go the beach even if it’s only for a few minutes between leaving work and getting home. She said, “When you make sure to fill your own soul, you are able to give so much more to everyone else.”

I can tell you from experience that she is right!

From the Inside Out

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn that as part of the service performed on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the High priest was required to bring incense into the Holy of Holies, the most sacred room of the Temple. The incense was required to be lit only once the high priest was inside the sacred room – it could not be lit outside and brought into the Holy of Holies. This isn’t just a technical detail; rather it has a message for how we live our lives.

The significance of lighting the incense while inside this sacred 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 and serve others. 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 inspiring anyone else. Only a pail full of water can water plants. Only a candle with a flame can light up another wick. And only a person brimming with inspiration can effectively inspire others.

If we want to make the world a better place, the best place to start is with ourselves.

Your Turn:

Where do you go, or what do you do to reignite your soul? Share your favorite place or activity below.

Stay informed about issues affecting Israel, the Jewish people, Jewish-Christian relations, receive daily devotionals, and more.