Positive Mitzvah Twenty-Nine

The Perpetual Fire on the Mizbeach [Altar]

Requires Beit HaMikdash

VaYikra 6:6  A permanent fire shall remain aflame on the Mizbeach; it shall not be extinguished.

We are commanded to keep fire burning continually upon the Altar every day. Kohanim are commanded to place wood upon the fire without fail every day in the morning and at dusk, as explained in the second chapter of Yoma, and in Tractate Tamid.

The Talmud says expressly: "Although the fire comes down from Heaven, it is nevertheless a duty to provide it by natural means." (Yoma 21b)

The provisions of this Mitzvah - the Mitzvah relating to the daily preparation of Fire upon the Altar, are set out in the 4th chapter of Yoma, and in the 2nd chapter of Tamid.

Three wood-stacks were kindled every day on the Outer Altar: the Great Fire on the east side of the Altar; the one at the south-western part of the Altar, from which fire was taken to the Golden Altar for the burning of the incense; and the fire which was kept burning continually on the Altar, from which ready burning logs were taken to re-kindle the Great Fire whenever necessary (Mishneh Torah, Avodah, Hilchot Temidin U-Musafin 8, 9). On Yom Kippur an additional fire was kept burning, which was used to ignite the incense in the Holy of Holies (Yoma 43b).

According to an ancient tradition in the Mishnah, one of the ten wonders that were wrought in the Temple was that rain never quenched the Great Fire of the wood-pile on the Altar (Ab. 5, 5).