Torah Portion: Tzav
“אש תמיד תוקד על המזבח… לא תכבה” (ויקרא ו ו)
It is a negative commandment to not extinguish the fire on the Altar, as it is written, A permanent fire shall remain aflame on the Altar; it shall not be extinguished (Vayikra 6:6).
The root of the mitzvah of keeping the fire aflame on the Altar was explained above, regarding the mitzvah of kindling the fire, and the same reason applies to the prohibition against extinguishing it.
The laws of the mitzvah include: Even if the person removed the fire from the Altar and only then extinguished it, he nevertheless transgresses this prohibition. However, if it was the fire from the fire-pan or the fire that he prepared on the Altar to be used [later] to kindle the Menorah — even if he extinguished it while still on the Altar, he is innocent, because he “separated” it from the Altar for the sake of a different mitzvah, and it is no longer considered the “fire of the Altar,” whereas we were only warned against extinguishing the fire of the Altar — as is written, A permanent fire shall remain aflame “on the Altar.”
This mitzvah applies when the Holy Temple stands, to both men and women, and even Israelites. One who transgressed this and extinguished even one coal of the Altar’s fire receives lashes.