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The Flame

The Flame


We can sit and gaze at it for hours.

It's luminous, it's warm, it's romantic; but most of all it's spiritual. (In what way spiritual? We can't really say, but it is spiritual.) A yellow droplet of light, laced with red, bright-white at the edges, and blue at the core as if dirtied by its contact with the material wick. But we didn't see all those colors until we counted them -- the flame itself is a perfect, integral whole, emanating calm and tranquility.

How, indeed, can something as agitated as the flame radiate such peace? For the flame is a clash of forces pulling in opposite directions. Look closely: see how it strains upward, striving to tear away from the wick which tethers it to the candle or lamp and lose itself in the great expanses of energy that gird the heavens. But look again, and see how it clings to the length of braided cotton that spears its heart and supplies it with the fuel that sustains its luminance and life. Back and forth, up and down it strives, vacillating between being and naught, between presence and oblivion.

"The soul of man is a candle of G‑d" (Proverbs 20:27). For the soul of man, too, is a clash of divergent forces and contrary strivings.

We yearn to tear free of our "wick" -- of the body that anchors us to the physical reality and sullies us with physical needs and wants. We strive upwards, yearning to transcend the physical, the human and the particular, and fuse with the universal and the divine. At the same time, we cling to the body, to the bit of matter that sustains us as dynamic and productive participants in G‑d's world.

It is this perpetual up-and-down, this incessant vacillation from selfhood to selflessness and back again, that we call life. It is this eternal tension between our desire to escape the physical and our commitment to inhabit it, develop it and sanctify it that makes us spiritual beings.

We can sit and gaze at the flame for hours, because we are gazing at ourselves.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
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Discussion (6)
December 14, 2015
wow - this is so beautifully written and poignant.
December 14, 2014
how beautiful, like how I feel... :) thank you for such a beautiful comparison. helps me understand why some things happen
TX, usa
November 11, 2013
light and soul candle
this is simply beautiful and I will share it with my many students as we contemplate the lights of Chanukah. Thank you!
sheila Lewis
December 9, 2007
Thank you for this spiritual insight into life's ups and downs.
Olivia Kroth
Friedrichsdorf, Germany
December 22, 2006
The Flame
How very beautiful. Thank you for your spiritual insight. I am going to share this beautiful insight.
bx, ny
May 13, 2005
a facinating mirror
What a facinating glimpse into the human soul. You have presented such a wealth of insight. I'll be contemplating this for a long time.
port huron, MI
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