• Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Are you familiar with the annoying rectangle that appears on your computer or cell phone screen with the "I'm not a robot" message? In order to proceed, we need to check a small box inside. Even though we have already answered this question in the negative hundreds of times, perhaps we really are robots.
In parashat Tzav which we read last Shabbat, there is a description of the duties of the Kohanim in the Mishkan. Among the various components of their service was the responsibility of maintaining a fire on the altar: "A continuous fire shall burn upon the altar; it shall not go out."
Rabbi Yoni Lavi writes about the expression "continuous fire" as follows: On the one hand it's a fire and its flame is variable. It flickers, changes colors, and aspires to go up. Yet, on the other hand, it is continuous. It is routine, permanent, quotidian, and perpetually consistent.
In his words, all of us operate sometimes on "automatic pilot." We are likely to do things out of habit, without thinking, because that's just the way it is or so we have been told. The most important aspects of our lives – marriage, learning, work, prayer, raising children – can be experienced without emotion or deep connection, by rote and in predictable sequence until 120.
We need to be aware of the danger of falling into habitual patterns, and instead try to take actual control of the steering wheel in our hands. To think before everything we do, to devote time and energy in finding flavor and freshness, and to understand that nothing should be taken for granted or minimized. Let's ask ourselves what we can do differently to enhance each moment, especially on Shabbat, but also on the morning ride with the kids to school and throughout the day, starting now.
We need to make every effort to declare: "I'm not a robot" or, in the language of the parasha, to light a "continuous fire" that burns throughout our lives.