“The candle of G-d, is the soul of man.” That’s what the wisest of all men wrote in the Book of Proverbs. And based on this verse, Chabad philosophy sees the flame as a detailed anatomy of the human soul.
So what have the soul experts discovered by gazing at Solomon’s flaming metaphor? Recently, Farbrengen Magazine asked some of its readers to shed some light on what the flame has been telling them lately.
Here is what they said:
What physical phenomenon talks louder to your soul than the sight of a burning flame? The pure flame is surely not spiritual, and yet it isn’t completely material either. And that’s what’s fascinating. The flame is like me and you; spiritual beings trapped in a material world.
When I look at a flame, I see a mirror. I see a reflection of my own hopes and burning dreams. Try it.
Next time you light a candle watch the flame push upwards trying to jump free of the physical wick. But even as it dances toward heaven, the flame is already coming back home to the wick in search of life-sustaining oil. And it is this conflicting motion, the simultaneous push and pull, the constant reaching and returning, that actually produces the light.
Now I know why I’m so restless. Or why when I stop for a deli sandwich in lower Manhattan my mind can wander to Jerusalem. Or why I can wake up on Sunday morning and rush to put on my Tefillin. The answer comes from a flame: I’m a spiritual being trapped in a material world.
Mark Kaplan is the former editor of the Cardozo Public Law, Policy, and Ethics Journal. Mark studied Chasidic philosophy in Israel and looks forward to going back one day. He currently lives with his wife and daughter in New York City.
It’s been told that the Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), founder of Chasidism, loved light.
Once, it was a freezing Russian winter night and the students had no candles. The holy Baal Shem Tov told his disciples to go outside and bring him the icicles that hung from trees and branches. They did, and he placed them in the golden candle holders. He then lit them with a match. And the ice burned like wax, and there was light.
When Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch heard this story he said: "For the Baal Shem Tov ice can burn with warmth and it’s bright. Today, people sit in well-heated and well-lit rooms, and yet it’s cold and dark...”
So when I look at a flame I see it as a question to my soul. “Am I making light or am I just getting used to the darkness?
Rabbi Eliyahu Glick is a graduate of the central Chabad Yeshiva in Brooklyn. He currently teaches Chabad philosophy in Antwerp, Belgium.
The last time I looked at a flame was this past Friday evening, when I lit my Shabbat candles. What did I see? I saw was the power of women who ignite the souls of all human beings.
And like my mother before me, I too will pass the burning torch to my little girl. And she will light a flame of her own.
Just as a little candle rising up on its own can have many other candles lit from it without diminishing its own fire. So too, a woman’s soul rises in Divine love and joy, and perpetually ignites the same love and joy of G-d in all souls that she encounters.
Shira Gold is copy editor at FridayLight.org, a campaign encouraging one million women to "Lighting Up" on Friday night. She lives with her daughter Maya in Surfside, Florida
"Rebbe, what is a Chasid?"
"A Chasid is a street-lamp-lighter. A street-lamp-lighter has a pole with fire. He knows that the fire is not his own, and he goes around lighting all lamps on his route."
"But what if the lamp is in a way-out place in the wilderness?"
"Then, too, he goes and lights it.."
"But what if the lamp is in the midst of a sea?"
"Then he takes off the clothes, jumps into the water and lights it there!"
"And that is a Chasid?"
The Rebbe thought for a long moment and then said: "Yes, that is a Chasid."
"But, Rebbe, I see no lamps!"
"Well, that is because you are not a street-lamp-lighter."
(From a conversation between a Chasid and Rabbi Shalom DovBer (1860-1920) of Lubavitch.)
Darker than hell’s cellar, not even a shadow can breathe. A skeletal wick, stiff as starch, lies buried in a pile of dusted hopes. A wind gusts through the rusted bars, blowing the dust off the wick. A flash, a spark, and the wick begins to glow. A flicker, a dance, and the dark cellar becomes a golden heaven.
The world, made of many wicks, made of many bodies, seems to be in perpetual night. But in every night there’s a star, in every body there’s a soul, in every wick – there is a flame.
Mendel Jacobson is a 22-year-old New York based writer working for the Algemeiner Journal. He is the grandson of veteran Yiddish journalist Gershon Jacobson. Between studying Talmud and Kabbalah he teaches Chabad philosophy in lower Manhattan.
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