B’haalosecha 5751: The Flame Rises on its Own

The Rebbe many times repeats the words of Tanya, chapter 37, that all the lofty revelations of the time to come are dependent on our Divine service during the time of exile.  Although this is well known among those who learn Chassidus, there is nonetheless a common misconception that once we finish our labor in Golus, than everything else happens automatically.  In almost every Sicha of Dvar Malchus, the Rebbe drives home the point that the end of exile is not the end of our labor.  In this Sicha it is expressed as “lighting the lamps until the flame rises on its own.”

This is Rashi’s commentary on the words of  Hashem to Aharon HaCohen in our Parshah: “When you light the lamps [of the menorah]”.  Says Rashi, this literally means “when you bring up the lamps”, because Aharon “is required to kindle the lamp until the flame rises by itself.”

The object is not simply that the lamps should be illuminated (the lamps referring to neshomos Yisroel), because this occurs also while Aharon is holding the light to them.  The Torah doesn’t say “light up the lamps”, but “bring up the lamps”.  This means that even when the one who lights them removes his influence, the lamps stay lit.  The Rebbe emphasizes that this means that the  lamps burn on their own accord even without any outside influence.

Even though lighting and bringing up the lamps comes about through lamp-lighting Jews, nonetheless the lamp must be ignited in a way that afterward the light comes from itself, the flame goes “on its own”, without needing any assistance from the lamp-lighter.

This means that even though a person didn’t “light himself up” — he had a Rebbe, parents, teachers, mashpiim, friends, etc. who helped “light him up” with an enthusiasm in avoidas Hashem — nonetheless, the complete and true avoidah is when (after he is “lit up” by others) he becomes a “flame which rises on its own”.  This means his own existence alone is what drives him, and not the influence of a mashpia (not even The Mashpia).

The significance to our times, after Gimmel Tammuz, should be obvious.  We are not presently operating in an environment where we see the Rebbe giving dollars, a piece of lekach, Kos Shel brocha, or an enthusiastic wave of the hand.  But if one refers to the “good old days” when Chassidim saw and felt all of that — he is missing the point.  The “complete and true avoidah” is not when a Yid feels excited when the Rebbe is “lighting him up”, but rather after that, when he can prove that the Rebbe was truly successful in lighting him up — because he is showing that his fire for serving Hashem “rises on it’s own”, even when the “lamp-lighter” pulls away the lighter!

This may sound like a daunting challenge, to bring ourselves to Geuloh-dik avoidas Hashem without the “Mashpia” (the Rebbe) lighting us up.  Firstly, we don’t have any choice in the matter: either we do this or, chas v’sholom, cool off.  As to the “how” — how can we bring ourselves to this avoidah the Rebbe wants from us, to rise up on our own accord?  The Rebbe brings in the Sicha from the Rebbe Rashab:

The nature to rise up [to its source] that is found in fire is not like something additional to it, not because it feels the loftiness of its source; but rather, because of its bittul and its lack of a metzius…

The more bittul we achieve, the less we are concerned with our own metzius (our feelings and our experiences of the Rebbe) and instead focus on what the Rebbe wants from us, we will find that we are “lit up” to bring Moshiach (in both our personal avoidah and our avoidah with others) in a more complete and true manner than was the case in the “good old days”. We will truly rise up on our own!

Kuntres 15 Sivan: True Hiskashrus

The Rebbe brings in the name of the Rebbe Maharash a Midrash which states: “The Holy One said to man, ‘my candle is in your hand, and the candle is in my hand; My candle in your hand is Torah… Your candle in My hand is the soul… If you guarded My candle, I guard your candle; but if you extinguished My candle, I extinguish your candle.'”. Although it may sound like a case of reward and punishment, the maamor explains it in a much deeper way:

The soul is likened to a candle because of its inherent nature to desire to rise up and be nullified in its source. This is accomplished by Aharon, who has the job to light the menorah until “the flame ascends of its own accord.”. Thus, the verse says “like good oil on the head descends on the beard the beard of Aharon…”. The beard of Aharon is the inyan of the halachos of Torah. This explains our midrash: that guarding the candle of Torah guards the soul that is desire to ascend should be revealed. This is accomplished via Torah.

As Chassidim we can understand that it refers to our hiskashrus to the Rebbe: that by guarding (learning and fulfilling) the Rebbe’s Torah we insure that our desire to be mekushar to the Rebbe remains revealed and is not extinguished, chas v’sholom. (Especially applicable in the period of concealment since Gimmel Tammuz.)

The emphasis here is on “keeping” the Torah, meaning fulfilling the Mitzvos (of course Talmud Torah itself being one of the Mitzvos). Because through Mitzvos one achieves bittul, and only when there is bittul can there be the resting of the Shechina on the body (the analogy of a candle brought in Tanya). And the ultimate level of bittul is acheived through fulfilling Mitzvos. This is why Parshas B’ha’aloshcha (“lightning the candles”) follows the festival of Shavuos, because the level of bittul that became possible after Matan Torah is far greater than what was before.

Even though the natural love of the soul for Hashem — to always be connected and never be separated even to the point is self-sacrifice — existed before Matan Torah, this love is an inheritance from the Avos, who possessed a level of Bittul called מרכבה a chariot. The chariot (the horses who pull it) fulfill the will of the rider not because they want that they should have a connection to the rider (like the natural love of the soul, mentioned above), but rather because they are bottel  nullified to the rider.

This level of Bittul of a מרכבה chariot is included (hidden) in the natural love the soul possesses. It is a level of bittul where he does not want anything for himself, only that there should be a revelation of G-dliness in the world, fulfilling Hashem’s desire for a Dwelling Place down below.

But, explains the Rebbe, even this is not the ultimate state of bittul. Because as long as he wants something — even just to fulfill the Divine desire — he remains a metzius. The “true inyan of bittul” is the avoidah of Kabbolas ‘ol, that “he is like a slave who has no desires, all that he does is due to the yoke that was placed on him, which forces him to fulfill the will of the Master.”

This all has a direct relevance to Moshiach and Geulah, alluded to in the final sections of the maamor. When Yisroel said נעשה ונשמע “we will do and [only then] we will understand” — before Matan Torah — they were accepting the yoke of Kingship. By accepting the yoke of Kingship it had the effect of making the King into an actual King. (“There is no King without a people”.). But the bittul after Matan Torah is the ultimate bittul — because the mitzvos are now the decree of Hashem and they force the person to act accordingly.

The levels of Bittul explained here are:

  1. A natural desire to be attached and not be separated from G-dliness;
  2. The chariot which has no desire of it’s own, only the desire to fulfill the desire of the rider;
  3. The bittul of kabbolas ‘ol, like a slave, who has no desire of his own (but nonetheless there is still the metzius of the slave (or the people who have made the King into a King));
  4. The bittul of Mitzvos after Matan Torah — the ultimate state of bittul, when “it is impossible for there to be a metzius in the world that is in opposition the command of the Holy One.”

This seemingly would completely eliminate the metzius of the person. But, says the Rebbe, since “Yisroel and the Holy One, blessed be He, are all One” then this level of bittul does not nullify his metzius, but to the contrary this is his metzius. Thus the Midrash says that by keeping Torah and Mitzvos (the ultimate level of bittul) this guards and preserves our soul (our unique metzius).

It comes out that the Rebbe is revealing to us that although all that remains to be done is accepting the Kingship of Melech haMoshiach (as the Rebbe states in other Sichos) , this itself is not the ultimate level of bittul (the level which reveals how we are one with Hashem). Once the Kingship is accepted it must become clear that it is impossible for us to do anything opposite his will, because of our complete state of bittulBut, explains the Rebbe, this bittul is accompanied by a special joy — the simcha shel mitzvah!