“Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it.” – Leviticus 6:12
The Torah portion for this week is Tzav, which means “command,” from Leviticus 6:1-8:36, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 7:21-8:3; 9:22-23.
The British-born Sir Moses Montefiore was one of the greatest modern leaders that the Jewish people have ever known. Establishing his wealth early on, Montefiore dedicated the majority of his 100 years to helping Jews in need all over the world. In 1827, Montefiore visited the Holy Land and was profoundly affected. He became a staunch supporter of the Jewish homeland and established the first settlement outside Jerusalem’s city walls. Montefiore also was spiritually impacted by his visit, and from that time onward he observed the laws of the Torah.
On one occasion, a renowned rabbi stayed at Montefiore’s home for the Sabbath. Montefiore, ever humble, asked the rabbi if he had noticed any wrongdoings over the Sabbath. “May I please ask your honor if there was anything you saw on the Sabbath that was not in accordance with that which is written in the Torah?” Montefiore asked the rabbi. The rabbi replied, “I saw nothing at all that was in accordance with what is written in the Torah!”
Then the rabbi explained to his stunned host, “It says in the Torah, “Jeshurun grew fat and kicked” (Deuteronomy 32:15). This means that when the Jewish people prospered because of God’s blessings, they neglected the service of their Creator. However, I have spent the Sabbath with someone whom the Creator has blessed with great wealth, and yet everything is done in the service of the Most High. So you see, nothing I have seen here on the Sabbath is in accordance with what is written in the Torah!”
One of the most amazing things about Montefiore is that he didn’t follow the well-worn trail of those like Jeshurun mentioned in the Torah who prospered and strayed from God. Instead Montefiore was able to harness his blessings and wealth for the service of God with humility and gratitude.
In this week’s Torah portion, we learn that as part of the daily service, “Every morning the priest is to add firewood . . . and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it.” The symbolism behind this daily act was that we must burn the fat – the self-satisfaction and pride – that otherwise could cause us to “kick” and rebel against God. When we are poor and hungry, it’s easier to have a natural and complete reliance upon God. But when we are satiated and full, it’s all too common to forget about God.
On Montefiore’s coat of arms are these words inscribed as his motto, “Think and Thank.” Let that be our motto as well. Each day, we must “burn the fat” of yesterday, think about our dependency on God every day, and thank Him for His abundant blessings today. In this way, God will continue to bless us and satisfy us while we stay on track and use our blessings for good.