Parashat Behalotcha

To Be Ignited- In Front of the Menorah

Can we be ignited anew? Can we be connected to the illuminating strengths of our soul? Can we want something, really want something, like when we were little and innocent? Can we have holy desires, strong will, amidst everything that we are going through?


Harav Israel Asulin

Tuesday, 15th of Sivan, 5775

The Torah portion, Behalotcha, opens with the lighting of the Menorah: “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and say to him: “When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall cast their light toward the face of the menorah” (Bamidbar[1] Chapter 8, Verse 1-2).

The day that the tabernacle was erected, Hashem commanded the high priest, Aharon, and his sons after him, to raise the Ner Tamid[2], in the morning and the evening; to light and to tend to the seven lamps of the Menorah, until a flame rises from them. Now you will see what it means that the Torah is ‘wider than the oceans.’ You will see that this verse that was said thousands of years ago, and only to Aharon and his sons, and was only relevant during the days of the Tabernacle and the holy Temple- can illuminate our lives. Rebbe Natan[3], in Likutei Halachot[4], takes this command of ‘behalotcha’ and explains: “When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall cast their light toward the face of the menorah- the soul is called a candle, like it is written (Mishlei[5] Chapter 20), ‘Man’s soul is the Lord’s lamp’ and the principle essence of the soul is the will. Therefore the soul is called will. And therefore it is called a candle, because the strength of the will is like a lit candle, in the aspect of (Shir Hashirim[6] Chapter 8) ‘for love is as strong as death’, which is the strength of will and yearning for Hashem…” (Orach Hayim, Hilchot Birkot Hashachar Chapter 5, Paragraph 44). Rebbe Natan doesn’t relate to candles by their simple definition; rather he relates to the soul that is within each one of us, which is called a candle. Every Jew is like a candle. Not a candle that is small… a candle that is the size of a soul that is stored within me and is drawn to heights, until the thrown of glory… but also not a physical candle- rather a spiritual candle. What does this mean for me, that I am a candle? It means that I can be an enlightened person, illuminated, burning- like a candle! It means that I have enormous strength to illuminate the world, like a projector. Like the sun. To illuminate my world, the world of my spouse, my children, my friends, the nation of Israel, the entire world! This candle’s size is unfathomable and has enormous strength! Consider this, you are going around this world, inside your body, deep is this dark and shady exile, and you are in reality an enormous light. With such strength, everything is supposed to be easy and simple and happy and refreshing and full of song and praise to Hashem…everything someone says to us, no matter what it is, is supposed to be small for us- detoxification from an addiction?- No problem; from now and forever! One hour of personal prayer with a broken heart and 23 hours of bliss? –Excellent! I’m on board! Learning Torah? Yes! Thank you!! Helping in the house? Right now! Whatever you say. To judge every man favorably? – What a wonderful idea…it sounds like the days of the Messiah. And why aren’t we there? We have a soul. We have a candle. So where is the light?


Simply put, it is not enough that there is a candle, one has to light it. And what is the difference between a lit candle and an extinguished candle?


“Because the strength of a will is like a lit candle…the physicality of the body and the world are called darkness, and due to the strength of the darkness it was not possible to exist…and therefore, the angels that came down into this world failed miserably, like our Rabbis said, only the soul of man is drawn from a very high place, from the supreme will, therefore there is power if you want to stand in this war, because if you overcome and hold on to the source, which is the aspect of will, that is to say that the world does not weaken your good desires with everything that you go through, by way of this one can always overcome the darkness of the body and this world… and everything is according to the strength of one’s will which is the principle holiness of the soul’s essence which is for this reason called a candle, because it illuminates like a real candle in all types of darkness…” (Orach Hayim, Hilchot Birkot Hashachar Chapter 5, Paragraph 44).

The angels could not withstand this world…but our soul, which is drawn from the supreme will, has the power to withstand this battle- if one wants.

Now the question of questions can be asked- is our candle extinguished? And if we don’t have will?

Behold, in reality, we fell into this world like a power outage. From the moment we opened our eyes inside our cribs with the mobile over our heads, the fluorescent lights were disturbing. From the beginning, when we were little and innocent, we wanted something, very badly, we were burning with desire- very quickly we grew up and grew wiser and understood that it was a waste of time and would not help for us to want and in any case, nobody was considering our desires, one way or the other the adults were dictating for us, or our friend, or the reality, and there was no place for our desires, therefore it was better, regretfully, that we should extinguish our fire. For our best, it was worthwhile that we stop getting disappointed…

And today, we are after having already lost everything. We don’t have any idea what we want. Everything is blurry and vague, we are carrying on in our lives with a dull and lowly outlook, we act based on what we “need” to do and we don’t actually want anything.

So what? Is there a solution? Can we ignite ourselves again? Can we connect ourselves to the shining strengths of our soul? Can we want something; really want, like when we were small and innocent? Is it possible that we can have holy desires, a strong will, amidst everything that we go through, until we glow like this great candle, which shines in all the types of darkness that are in this world?


Yes! It is possible!!! And this is how Rebbe Natan continues: “But it is only possible to merit this if we connect ourselves to the true Tsaddikim that have within them the aspect of Moshe, who passed away at the time of the highest will (at the time of Mincha[7] on Shabbat), because he stands between spiritual destruction and will and makes converts and returnees to the Torah in the world, because he uplifts them from spiritual destruction to will. Only he gives light and strength to the holy will in every person, even if one fell, G-d forbid, to wherever he fell, he gives him the strength to overcome with strong good will and by way of this he rises him up from spiritual destruction to will” (Orach Hayim, Hilchot Birkot Hashachar Chapter 5, Paragraph 44). Amazing! No matter how much we have fallen into spiritual destruction, to death, to complete lack of will- the true Tsaddik, the aspect of Moshe, can raise us from spiritual destruction to will, to ignite us so that we should burn! What do we need to do for this? To connect ourselves to the Tsaddik; to fulfill the advice of the Tsaddik, to go to Uman, to bring ourselves, like this, like we are, extinguished, sunken in darkness and lacking any will… and to tell him ‘look at my situation’… and everything else he will do. “And this is ‘When you light the lamps’- that when you want to light and raise the holy candles that are the aspect of the souls of Israel, that they should burn to Hashem so that their candles should go forth and illuminate in all types of darkness. ‘The seven lamps shall cast their light toward the face of the menorah’- the face of the menorah is the aspect of the Tsaddik, who is the aspect of Moshe, who is the aspect of the face of the menorah. From the pure menorah, all of the souls of Israel receive their light. Because that is the origin of everyone, and it is therefore called ‘the face of the menorah’” (Orach Hayim, Hilchot Birkot Hashachar Chapter 5, Paragraph 44).

[1] Numbers

[2] An Eternal Light (Ner Tamid) hangs above the ark in every synagogue. It is often associated with the menorah, the seven-branched lamp stand which stood in front of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is also associated with the continuously-burning incense altar which stood in front of the ark.

[3] Rebbe Nachman’s major disciple

[4] Rebbe Natan’s explanation of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law), based upon Rebbe Nachman’s teachings

[5] Proverbs

[6] Song of Songs

[7] Mincha is the prayer service that may be recited from half an hour after halachic noontime.

In memory of Byron McKibbon.

Shabbat Shalom Umevorach!


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