I’ve never (yet) been tempted to burn down a school building, nor do I follow fire trucks, but I admit to a lifetime fascination with fire. I don’t know why, but the dancing flames, the interplay of subtly different hues of light and the heat produced as wood slowly smolders has always had me enthralled.

I certainly picked the religion with sufficient outlets to satisfy my attraction. How many of our festivals and observances revolve around kindling a flame? Off hand I can think of Friday night candles, The Havdallah service marking the conclusion of Shabbat, Chanukah, Lag BaOmer bonfires and burning of leaven before Passover, not to mention the baking of matzah, lighting candles the night before a Brit and the lantern-bearing procession to the chupah (wedding canopy).

Apparently there’s a psychologically recognized condition, Seasonally Affected Disorder (SAD), where people become depressed in winter due to lack of sunlight. The presence of light and fire in all their brilliance, warmth and beauty directly influence our feelings of health and contentment.

In the Torah we read about the Divine command for the High Priest to kindle the seven-branched candelabra. The Temple was the source of splendor and enlightenment for the physical world, and the priest’s responsibility was to ignite these flames of glory, and thereby illuminate the universe.

We have a similar mission in our daily struggles in this gloomy world: to transmit the radiance of G‑d from within ourselves, to brighten our surroundings and illuminate the lives of our families, friends and acquaintances.

Aaron was commanded to light the wicks "until the fire blazes up by itself." As anyone who has ever battled a coal barbeque or labored to start a campfire without fire-starters or kerosene would attest, there is more to kindling than just holding a match to the fuel. It takes skill to find the right spot, determination to keep the lighter there till the fire catches and sometimes it takes a few tries (and a half-dozen matches) to guarantee the flame spreads. Once well lit, the new fire is incomparably more powerful and useful than the puny matchstick from which it was ignited.

It’s not easy to reach out to others. We often feel shy or awkward, worried about interfering, and unconvinced of our ability to be of any use. Far easier to hide in one’s own little huddle and let the world take care of itself.

We can’t, we mustn’t. The exponential effects of inspiring others, the good engendered and inspiration effected have such powerful consequences, that to abnegate our responsibilities would be to condemn both ourselves and others to a sterile, frosty existence.