A candle can be fed or extinguished by the wind, depending on how it blows. If it blows too hard, the flame separates from the wick, therefore it blows out. If the steady air feeds, it waxes at an even pace. A person has a soul, which is considered a flame. Here too, it could go in both directions. A person giving in to despair and sadness can “put out” his own flame. He can also burn and blaze about something so passionately, even out of the realm of his capacity to contain his zeal. That’s when the candle burns out too- only it burns down too quickly until there is nothing left. A middle road, a moderate flickering should always be the norm in a person’s life. If he can maintain a constant light despite the ups and downs, the passions and disappointments he faces, his candle will always burn. This is very important guided imagery that Rabbi Nachman of Breslov brought down to us over 200 years ago.
He connects this Torah to what happened in this parsha, Shemini, with the sons of Aaron the High Priest, Nadav and Avihu. They had such a burning desire that it actually burned them alive. They had not internalized that containing a passion, even for G-d, is really what G-d wants. Our Rabbis say that Nadav and Avihu did not marry because they felt that without the hassle of everyday home life, a wife, children, etc. they would be able to serve Hashem better without distractions. They invented a new way in which they thought in their perception of worship would be more practical. They wanted to be closer to G-d and they overstepped the boundary.
We have ideas all the time about how to be close to G-d. The truth is we live in this world of asiyah. We don’t live in heaven but we live on earth. And for that very reason Hashem gave the Torah to the world. The Torah is everlasting and has in it everything we need to know about how to be, what to do and when and where we should be. We don’t have to offer any strange fires or put on airs. In order to spread the light, each soul’s candle shines out. When all the little candles are gathered together (in Achdut) a very great light shines forth. At this time of Omer, when we remember the students of Rabbi Akiva that died because of the lack of unity, it is time to focus more on coming together.
Dear Readers, This past Shabbat my husband and daughter and I had the privilege of taking a nature walk down the path that leads to the not so far away resting place of the sons of Aaron the High Priest, Itamar and Elazar. Of all the people in the world reading about these sacred ancestors, here we were, facing the place where they were laid to rest. If EVER anyone ever tells you that these holy places belong to another people, please know – it is our legacy! Today the graves are surrounded by those that throw trash and refuse unto the holy sites. There is no uproar in the Jewish community about this. This is perplexing and very troubling. The same fate, if not worse is at the Tomb of Joseph. Joseph, who gathered the brothers together to become Shechem echad- the righteous example of the unifying force, and the world prefers to be silent. Remember, these places are the backbone of our identities. They can never be erased, like the words on the Torah scroll we read every Shabbat. Itamar is the name of our great grandparents. If the President of the U.S. should make the mistake to say it belongs to someone else, please inform him otherwise!
Shabbat Shalom, Leah Goldsmith