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Lighting the Candle of Love
The Weekly Torah Portion of: B'ha'lotcha
To Kindle a Soul
The Torah portion of B'ha'alotcha begins with the commandment to Aaron, the High Priest, to daily light the seven candle menorah, "candelabra" in the Tabernacle. In the Temple in Jerusalem, the menorah was also lit daily. In Proverbs 20:27 we learn that "God's candle is the soul of man." Candles are souls that must be kindled.
The seven candles of the menorah correspond to the seven archetypical Jewish souls. (The eight candles we light on the festival of Chanukah correspond to eight souls, an even higher revelation of the origin of the Jewish soul).
commands Aaron to light the candles of the menorah with the word B'ha'alotcha,
which means, "When you cause (the candles) to ascend." In defining this
commandment, our sages explain that the priest must hold the source of fire
to the candle until the flame of the candle ascends independently, and no
longer requires the source of fire in order to burn. This principle applies
to souls, as well. When we desire to kindle another soul, we must steadily
hold our own source of fire to the soul being kindled, until it is no longer
dependent upon us. Although in many relationships, including the Rebbe--disciple
relationship, the disciple seems to be totally dependent on the flame of the
Rebbe, the sign of true union is when each soul maturely and
independently connects to the other.
(In his book Kuzari, Rabbi Yehuda Halevi explains that when a Jew sways back and forth in prayer or Torah study, he is manifesting the candle of his soul. His constant swaying motion is the stable flickering of the candle of his soul, which has been kindled and burns independently.)
The 3-Dimensional Flame of Love
The Hebrew word used by our sages for "flame" is shalhevet, whose numerical value is 737. In the Shema Yisrael prayer recited three times daily we quote the commandment in the Torah to love God on three levels -- "with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." (B'chol levavcha, uvechol nafshecha uvechol me'odecha). The numerical value of this phrase is also 737. The commandment to light the flame is only complete when all three levels of love have been kindled in the soul and burn independently.
The heart has many attributes: fear, awe, compassion, sincerity, devotion and more. But to set souls on fire is an act of love. The epitome of love is described in the Song of Songs as shalhevet-kah, "the flame of God."
Aaron, the priest commanded to light the candles, represents infinite love. When he lights the candles, he kindles this experience of love in the hearts of his fellow Jews. The Jews themselves are candle lighters, kindling the souls of those around them until they, too, experience the independent ascent of love of their own souls toward God.
A Meditation on Flame
In Sefer Yetzirah, (The Book of Formation) the Ten Emanations of light are compared to one flame, shalhevet, connected to a gachelet, a coal or source of energy. This description parallels the physical structure of a flame, and evokes a meditation on the Shabbat candles.
When we contemplate on a flame, we see that it has three levels:
numerical value of the three terms, chashmal, eish and nogah, is
once again 737, the numerical value of shalhevet.
we love God with all our hearts, souls and might, we have also kindled the
complete flame of love for His Torah, His people Israel and His Land. This
love ascends with independent power, kindling the candle of love for God in
the souls of all whom we encounter.