As children, a bonfire was a full-day activity. First, we had to go to the forest around our upstate bungalow colony and carefully collect the wood and twigs needed to keep a fire going. Only after many hours of collecting—once we had an impressive pile to show for ourselves—could we start the fire. And as we roasted those marshmallows, we knew that the flames would last only as long as there would be wood to burn.

There’s a spiritual fire that also needs some “wood” to burn. “The L‑rd Your G‑d is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Just as fire can only catch on an object when that object is being consumed by it, so, too, regarding the light of the Shechinah. In order for G‑dly light to illuminate the Jew’s soul, the fire must have what to burn—in this case, the negative tendencies of the animal soul. All of a person’s arrogance, gluttony, anger and any other unbecoming characteristic can get burned into holiness.

But how does it work?

In a previous chapter in Tanya1, the Alter Rebbe compared the Shechina to a flame and good deeds to oil. In this parting chapter, the Alter Rebbe repeats this metaphor and highlights a recurring theme of Tanya: Don’t despair that you may have the very human desire to cheat, eat forbidden foods or even to be promiscuous. For in order for G‑d’s fire to burn, it needs a “wick” to hold onto, and by “burning” your negative impulses, by fighting them one desire at a time, your base desires become the wick that causes the G‑dly glow to shine brightly on this planet.

So embrace each desire of your animal soul as an opportunity to provide “burning material” for G‑dly light and watch this world become a brighter place.

Tanya Bit: Saying goodbye to a bad habit is saying hello to G‑dly light.

(Inspired from Chapter 53 of Tanya)