Perhaps nothing captures the indifferent spirit of our times like the ubiquitous “whatever.”

Ask your teenager, “What's bothering you?” He’ll answer, “Whatever.”

A husband asks his wife, “Did I do something to upset you?” Her disappointed face grimaces, “Whatever…”

“Whatever,” means I don't think you sincerely care. It reflects a caustic apathy that says we both know that what is will always be. Neither of us will put forth the necessary effort to create change. And let’s be honest, neither of us believe we can transform our circumstances. So, why are we even bothering to discuss this?

A short verse in this week’s parshah shatters this complacent, paralyzing attitude.

The portion begins with the words: “G‑d spoke to Moses, saying: Command Aaron and his sons . . .” (Lev. 6:1–2)

The word tzav (“command”) implies an urging for now and for future generations (Rashi). Perhaps it is a hint to our generation.

The fire upon the altar shall be kept burning . . . and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning. (Lev. 6:5)

Although a divine, heavenly fire descended upon the altar, the priest was commanded to add a humanly produced fire to it. (Eruvin 63a)

The fire that the priests were commanded to light on the altar is a metaphor for our effort. G‑d grants us many gifts. But G‑d asks us to take the building tools of what we have been given and create from it a flaming fire.

This principle holds true in all areas of our lives. Though life’s gifts are bestowed upon us from Above, G‑d desires that we contribute our own initiative.

The altar represents the heart of man, our feelings and self-worth. In a world filled with dejection, instead of resigning ourselves to passivity, we must constantly fuel our flames of optimism. We were created to create change in our world. We can make a difference. And once we have exerted ourselves, G‑d will crown our struggles with unimaginable success.

But who am I? We wonder. How can I create a fire of enduring worth? How can I change a cold, uncaring environment and fire it up with warmth, love, and goodness?

The challenge seems daunting. I can’t possibly be charged with creating infinite light. And yet, G‑d commands us to do our part.

Sustain your passion and enthusiasm in fulfilling the purpose for which you were created—to raise up to G‑d the material of our everyday existence.

The fire of the altar teaches:

a) Ignite your fire. Believe that you matter and can make an impact.

b) Do your part and G‑d will crown your efforts.

G‑d adds His own divine fires to our humanly built one.

If we believe, we can. But only if we act upon that belief.