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Parshat Beha'alotcha: Lighting the Candle of Love


This article is based on a recorded lecture. You can listen to the lecture by clicking here. (You can also download the lecture by right-clicking this link and selecting "save link as…").

 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).

True Union

God 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:

  • The blue (or black) part of the flame is adjacent to the energy source, the wick. The mystical term for this part of the flame is chashmal. The wick symbolizes the physical dimension of the heart on fire with love of God. True love affects the heart physically.
  • The white part of the flame surrounds the blue flame. The mystical term for this part of the flame is eish ("fire"). This part of the flame corresponds to loving God with all one's soul. Just as the soul does not touch the body, so this part of the flame does not touch the wick.
  • An aura, or halo surrounds the flame. The mystical term for this part of the flame is nogah, and it corresponds to love of God with all one's might.

The numerical value of the three terms, chashmal, eish and nogah, is once again 737, the numerical value of shalhevet.

To summarize:

The Secret of Shalhevet

And you shall love God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might


Mystical Name

Correspondence to Verse

Inner Flame surrounding wick



B'chol levavcha

With all your heart

Flame surrounding inner flame



B'chol nafshecha

With all your soul

Aura surrounding flame



B'chol me'odecha

With all your might

When 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.

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