Updated: Feb 27, 2020
Rabbi Alexander Tsykin
At the very end of this week's Parasha, after the revelation at Mt Sinai, immediately the Torah begins to talk about how we are to build an altar of earth if we want to. Why is this optional? Very soon, G-d will tell us that we must build such an altar. It is an integral part of the Mishkan, the place where sacrifices are brought. Whether the Jews already know or not, it is not at all an optional extra.
" Through spontaneity, we are re-formed into ourselves. " - Viola Spolin
The altar was intended to provide a model for our spiritual world. As such, it is certainly obligatory. However, we should not approach it as merely another obligation. The altar and the sacrifices brought upon it are meant to feel like a gift, not a tax. And that gift continues to have implications and continues to be important afterwards.G-d said to build the altar, but he never said to just cross it off the list when it was done. Our religious lives are filled with things we are told to do. However, it is the death of spirituality when we feel that those things are merely technical obligations which we can fulfil and then forget about.
Let us all learn the lesson of the altar of earth and approach our religious lives as a source of inspiration and joy, not merely jobs which we need to complete.