Rashi, in discussing the Torah portion of Tzav, quotes the words:1 “A constant fire shall burn upon the altar; it shall not be extinguished,” and explains that “the fire about which the verse states ‘constant’ (i.e., the fire upon the outer altar), shall be used for kindling the lights [of the menorah], concerning which the verse states2 ‘to keep the lamp constantly burning’ — it too shall be lighted from the outer altar.”

With regard to those laws which involve a number of different entities, the question arises: Which aspect is primary and which is secondary?

The law of kindling the menorah from the fire of the altar is a case in point: Is this a law that revolves around the lighting of the menorah, i.e., that the fire for lighting the menorah must come from the outer altar, or is this a law that relates to the altar — that the fire of the outer altar must be used for the kindling of the menorah?

How we answer this question becomes significant if, for whatever reason, there is no fire upon the outer altar. If the law relates to the menorah, then when there is no outer altar fire, the menorah cannot be lit. But if this law relates primarily to the outer altar, then, when there is no outer altar, the obligation to light from there ceases, and the menorah is to be lit from a different fire.

According to the halachah, it seems that this law relates to the menorah itself, implying that the fire for lighting the menorah must come from the outer altar.3

However, according to Rashi s interpretation of the verses, this is not so. For Rashi’ s statement “it, too, shall be lighted from the outer altar” implies that the law relates to the outer altar, and indicates that the fire of the outer altar should be used for lighting the menorah, just as it is used for the other kindlings mentioned here.

Moreover, the simple context of the verse supports this position, for the Torah places this law in the section that deals with the fire of the outer altar, and not in the section that speaks about the menorah.

There is a profound lesson here in terms of man’s Divine service. The vessels found in the Mishkan and the Beit HaMikdash are divided into two general categories: those found within the structures proper, such as the inner altar, the menorah, etc., and those found in the courtyard, such as the outer altar.

These two locations refer to two distinct kinds of spiritual service: the service that has to do with oneself (the inner portion of man’s service), and the aspect of man’s service that revolves around helping one’s fellow on the “outside,” as well as that of bringing into the domain of holiness those things that are on the “outside.”

This latter manner of service is similar to the outer altar, for it was specifically there that the offerings of all the Jewish people — whatever their level — were brought.

More specifically: Kindling the menorah alludes to Torah study,4 as the verse states:5 “Torah is light.” One who constantly studies Torah thus keeps the Divine fire within himself constantly burning; he is constantly united with G‑d.6

Such an individual may think that, given his elevated status, he need not be bothered with the practical performance of commandments, and surely needn’t be bothered with helping his fellow Jew and elevating the world as a whole.

The Torah therefore teaches us that the menorah was not lit from the inner altar, although it was located nearby,7 but from the fire of the outer altar.

This teaches us that, in order for a person to be assured that his personal “menorah” will burn constantly with the light of Torah, he must first feel for the Jew who is on the “outside,” seeing to it that the other’s “G‑dly soul, G‑d’s lamp”8 is illuminated. Only then can one rest assured that his own illumination will remain constant.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, pp. 50-56