All Fired Up

Right before discussing the actual construction of the Sanctuary, this week's portion cautions us to observe the Sabbath. One reason for this is to teach us that no matter how important the building of the Tabernacle is; nevertheless, its construction may not push the Sabbath aside. In other words, we may not desecrate the Sabbath by engaging in any creative activity even for the holy purpose of building a house of God. (Ex. 35:1-2; Rashi citing Mechilta)

Then the verse goes on to say, "You may not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day." (Ex. 35:3) This specific instruction raises an obvious question. We know that there are thirty nine types of creative activity which are forbidden on the Sabbath. (Mishnah Shabbos, chap. 7, "Klal Gadol", pg. 73a) Therefore, why did God single out the lighting of a fire as the example of an activity forbidden on Shabbos? Why not choose any of the other creative activities as an example? (See Shemuel, Rebbi Yosi, and Rebbi Nassan, Talmud Bavli Shabbos, chap. 7, "Klal Gadol", pg. 70a)

The Chassam Sofer (pg.151a, "Lo Siva'aru") says that the Torah singled out this specific activity to teach us that we should not begin to ignite the fire of spirituality on Shabbos. In other words, we should not be so involved in our livelihoods all week long to the point that we tell ourselves that we will wait for Shabbos to begin tasting the taste of spirituality.

Rather, we should already begin lighting the fire of service to God from the beginning of the week with Torah study and Mitzvah performance. We should already have the fire, passion, enthusiasm, and excitement of Divine service burning in our hearts all week long, to such an extent, that by the time the holy Sabbath comes around, there is already a flame that is burning on its own.

This is the understanding of our verse. When it says, "You may not kindle a fire on the Sabbath day." It means that we may not begin to ignite the spark of holiness and service to God on Shabbos, but rather, we should have begun this holy fire from the first day of the week.

A closer read of the Chassam Sofer's words will reveal another layer of meaning. The Chassam Sofer says that during the week the "Aish" (fire) of Divine service should be burning in our hearts, so much so, that by the time Shabbos comes around, there will already be a "Shalheves" (flame) burning on its own.

Why did the Chassam Sofer use the word "Aish" with regard to the weekdays, whereas regarding the Sabbath he uses a different word, "Shalheves?" Let us explore a few different teachings that will help us appreciate what the Chassam Sofer is driving at.

The Noam Elimelech (Parshas Vayigash) says that during the week we are supposed to serve HaShem from "Yirah" (reverence, respect, awe). However, on Shabbos we are supposed to serve God from "Ahavah" (love).

Moreover, the Maggid of Mezeritch (cited in Orach L'Chaim) says that Yirah must precede Ahavah, because only through Yirah will a person merit to experience Ahavah.

Additionally, there is a verse that says, "Its flashes are flashes of "Aish" (fire), the "Shalheves" (flame) of God." (Song of Songs 8:6) The Vilna Gaon explains the difference between an "Aish" and a "Shalheves". He says that "Aish" refers to those that serve God from Yirah, whereas "Shalheves" refers to those that serve God from "Ahavah."

The Shvilei Pinchas says that this is why King Solomon mentioned "Aish" before "Shalheves" in the aforementioned verse. It is because Yirah (represented by "Aish") must come before Ahavah (represented by "Shalheves").

This also explains why our verse says, "You may not kindle an "Aish" on the Sabbath day." Not only aren't we supposed to begin serving God on Shabbos like we said above, but there is another reason for this as well. You see, if we do begin to serve HaShem on Shabbos, then we'll have to go in order by focusing on Yirah first. However, there is no place for Yirah on Shabbos, because the Sabbath is all about Love.

Therefore the verse very accurately says that we may not kindle an "Aish" (representing Yirah) on the Sabbath day, because on the Sabbath we are supposed to approach God with love.

Now we can appreciate the choice of words by the Chassam Sofer who said that during the week the "Aish" of Divine service should be burning in our hearts. This means to say that during the week we should approach God from Yirah represented by "Aish".

However, the Chassam Sofer went on to say that by the time Shabbos comes around there should already be a "Shalheves" burning on its own. His intention here was that on the Sabbath we should be cleaving to God from a place of Ahavah represented by a "Shalheves."

The Shvilei Pinchas suggests that this sheds light on the widely popular custom to light at least two candles on Friday afternoon in honor of Shabbos. (See Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim, 263:1) One candle corresponds to "Zachor." (remember the Sabbath. Ex. 20:8) The other candle corresponds to "Shamor." (guard the Sabbath. Dt. 5:12)

The Ramban says that "Zachor", the positive, represents the love, while "Shamor", the negative, represents the reverence. Therefore, the two candles which stand for Zachor and Shamor, actually signify Ahavah and Yirah. That is why there are two candles. One represents the "Aish" of Yirah, while the other represents the "Shalheves" of Ahavah.

Lighting these two candles on Friday afternoon is very fitting, because that is when we are making the transition of serving God from a place of Yirah, to serving God from a place of Ahavah. This concept of two candles is also present on Saturday night.

The blessing over a candle at the Havdalah ceremony on Saturday night should also be on a candle with two wicks. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 298:1, Remah ibid. Pesachim, chap. 10, "Arvei Pesachim", pg. 103b) These two wicks also represent the two types of fire. One represents an "Aish", while the other represents a "Shalheves".

Once again, at the onset of a new week, when we make the transition of serving God from Ahavah to Yirah, these two candles are present to help us focus on the different approaches we are meant to take in Divine service.

This teaching can be used as a springboard to assist us in improving our relationship with God. Perhaps we could suggest the following exercise. Take out twenty seconds on Friday night, and on Saturday night, to gaze into the two candles. (Some have the custom of lighting two candles from the Havdalah candle that graces our table for the Melaveh Malkah meal.)

Think about how they represent the two distinct approaches in serving God; 1) Aish, Yirah, Shamor and 2) Shalheves, Ahavah, Zachor. During those twenty seconds, try to think of one positive Mitzvah (representing Ahavah) and one negative commandment (representing Yirah) that we would like to improve on. Let that be our pet project for this upcoming week.

In this way, we will have begun to fill our hearts with a burning desire to serve God completely.

So, may we all be blessed to keep Shabbos all week long by serving HaShem with reverence during the six days and with love on the Seventh day, in order to experience the Yom Shekulo Shabbos speedily in our days.