Ten miracles were wrought for our forefathers in the sanctuary:…  the rains never put out the fire of the wood-pile [on the altar, under the open sky] Pirkei Avot, Perek V, mishnah 7. The altar for sacrifices was in an open space, exposed to the elements. Yet in the heaviest rains the fire always burned. If we might personify them, we could call fire and water natural mortal enemies: water poured on fire will douse it; if there is not enough water to put out a blaze, the flames will dry up the liquid rapidly. Yet here, for a higher purpose, these opposites were made to cooperate. The fire on the altar was needed that the offerings might be burnt there, in accordance with Scripture's revelation of the Divine will. In fact, it commanded, "a constant fire shall be kept burning up on the altar" [this verse]. The cohanim could ensure only a steady supply of wood, fed to the flames as necessary; rain was beyond their control. But Heaven intervened for its own command. To serve the higher goal of the Creator of all, fire and water rose above their natures and made a truce, as it were.… What natural elements did, human elements must also do. Clashing personalities, conflicting interests, drives and pulls in opposite directions -- in the communal life of Jewry these have no place. All must be subdued to the sacred will of Heaven, as we discern it through the Torah and its authentic teachers. Skulduggery of power and politics, the defeat of one group by another for the sheer joy of flexing and showing political muscle, the battle of wills as the greater pigheadedness seeks to triumph--all this is cold water to douse the fires of faith burning in the altars of the heart.
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS