Parshat Tzav: Fortune & Flame

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Ice on Fire
20 Mar 2008
Arts & Media

Icicles dangle from eyelashes where

Tears used to be. Fingertips and

Blue lips being gnawed on by frostbite

With an insatiable appetite.


Stone-cold hearth’s pop-cycle frozen in time;

Diamond stars of frosty Heaven-Up –

Ice-cubes in the flat Coke of night.


It is way below zero in this tundra optimists call World

And, to a certain degree, it’s got nothing to do with temperatures

Or wind-chill factors and everything to do with cold hard facts:


People turn cold shoulders and flash icy stares.

Some have licenses to chill while others have the sensitivity of

A snowman.

Everyone’s part of this shiver ring; it’s only that the privileged get to

Mask theirs behind the shudders of big mansions with bigger heating bills

While the unprivileged chatter away in the honesty of their cardboard boxes.


We live in a cold, dark world

But does a cold, dark world live in us?


An eternal fire shall blaze

Upon the altar

It shall not go out


We are born sanctuaries; a holy fire burning

Eternally, continually, perpetually upon our altar

Our external altar, an altar the whole world can see

(Perhaps even on our alter ego).


But, as the hour moves on, it seems as though the warmth

Moves on with it – as if the last tired head has nodded off

And now there’s no one left to add wood to the campfire.


But eternity never nods off – it merely dreams:

Eternal dreams, dreams of fortune and flame

When never again will someone shiver

Never again will anyone freeze


There are fires that burn things down, down to the ground.

And there are fires that burn things up, up to the heavens.


Some fires turn matter into ash.

This fire turns matter into spirit.


Many fires char the forests and scorch the wildernesses.

This fire blazes a path straight through to the Promised Land.


Many fires blister the skin and brand the mind.

But this fire, o this fire

Melts the coldest of hearts and thaws the most cynical of minds.


This fire may be kept in, but it’ll never go out.

This fire may come in; it’ll never be kept out.

A good deed is the difference between a cold carcass and a warm smile.

A flame is the difference between a cold hearth and a fireplace.

An eternal flame that shall never go out –

Is the difference between a frozen body and a passionate soul.

Let it burn!

Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.