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Soul on Fire

Soul on Fire

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The soul of man is a lamp of G‑d (Prov. 20:27).

Man is a complex conglomeration of heaven and earth, spirit and matter, fire and wick. Like the lamp, man, too, is comprised of three elements which determine the direction of his actions. The candle's wick, flame and oil resemble man's body, soul and source in the Torah and its mitzvot.

His soul, like the flame, is aflame with yearning and inspiration. It burns brightly within him, inspiring him to connect to his Creator. It desires fiercely to break the bonds of this physical world, to transcend the barriers of a material existence and unite with its Maker.

When allowed full expression, the soul encourages man to seek spiritual pursuits, to almost tear itself free from the gravity of physical reality that grounds it. Yet, like the flame of the candle, after the soul performs its celestial dance it also falls back, returning to illuminate this world and leave its mark on physical reality. By cleaving to the ultimate Source, the soul would be encompassed within it. Only as it exists within a seemingly distinct being can the soul accomplish the very purpose of its descent.

The candle's wick, flame and oil resemble man's body, soul and source in the Torah and its mitzvot. The body of man, like the wick of the candle, is both grounded and physical. With its many limitations, many real needs and desires, the body entraps and enslaves the soul within it. Yet, while imposing its restrictions, the body also houses the soul and provides an outlet for its unique expression. The soul can only feel, perceive and savor reality through the body's senses; it can only move about freely with the body's limbs; and it can only think and analyze with the body's mind. The body's very groundedness, then, provides a means and opportunity for the soul's relationship with creation.

Torah, like the oil of the lamp, is the source for man's ideals, providing the direction for a meaningful life that connects him with his Creator. Mitzvot ignite man's potential, showing him in a concrete way how to utilize his abilities and talents for a G‑dly end.

Enlightening, pure and clear, like the oil, the Torah and its mitzvot direct the potential in man to its ultimate purpose.

"The spirit of man gravitates upward" (Eccles. 3:21).

When man is true to the yearnings of his soul, directs them with the wisdom and enlightenment of Torah, puts them into practice by fulfilling the mitzvot with the faculties and limbs of his body, he generates light and becomes "a lamp of G‑d."

Every Friday eve, as a woman strikes her match, charring the wick while igniting the flame that drinks in the oil of her Shabbat lights, she is drawing down, in a very real and physical way, this light. This is not an elusive light, removed from worldly concerns and dynamics, but an inspiration that imbues the deepest darkness of this physical reality. It elevates its earthiness and saturates humanity and creation as a whole with a brighter goodness and truer perspective, in harmony with the will of its Creator.

Every Friday eve, as a woman strikes her match, charring the wick while igniting the flame that drinks in the oil of her Shabbat lights, she is drawing down, in a very real and physical way, this light.

Just as the physical lights represent man's soul and being, every mitzvah brings a real spiritual light into this world. The Shabbat candles, however, physically dispel any spiritual darkness or gloom surrounding us. Since they involve physical light, the Shabbat candles, more than any other mitzva, harmonize this vacillating dichotomy between body and soul in the essence of man's being, bringing light and inspiration to the temporality of life.

"A perpetual fire shall remain aflame on the altar; it shall not be extinguished" (Lev. 6:6).

"Our heart is the altar. In all you do, let a spark of holy fire burn within, so that you may fan it into a flame" (Baal Shem Tov).

As her match kisses the candle, creating a holy light, the woman reveals and elicits unseen and intangible, yet vast and potent, G‑dly energy which surrounds, while at the same time imbues, all of creation. By kindling the Shabbat candles, the woman has the special power to usher in the holiness of Shabbat. Her act of lighting the candle and reciting its blessing draws down the special aura of the holy Shabbat for us all.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
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Golda V E Haberland (Leijonhufvud) NW republic ireland April 13, 2013

Light I was able to read during Shabbat before sundown on Saturday, in my room my candle alight. Thank you for bringing me back, at times it's hard to celebrate Shabbat when one is alone far from Israel and a Jewish community, the words and videos are greatly appreciated. Reply

Welcome to our candle-lighting section, where you will find the details and practicalities of lighting Shabbat candles, along with the meaning, spirituality and power of doing so . . .
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