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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Fire Made by God

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

How can you tell the difference between a fire made by man and a fire made by G-d?

A fire made by man gives warmth and light, but only burns while consuming its fuel. If nothing is consumed -” the fire goes out.

A fire made by G-d gives light and heat but does not consume. In G-d’s world there is an ultimate good without any destruction or loss.

When Moshe was busy shepherding his flock he came across a burning bush. The fact that the bush was burning was not onto itself a spectacular sight. But, that nothing was being consumed stopped Moshe in his tracks. This could not be a fire from Earth; it must be a fire from the Heavens! Moshe immediately understood that with all the tribulations of the Jewish people, G-d is still with them. The Shechinah is still present. This inconsumable fire became our symbol of the eternity of the Shechinah.

As history unfolded the fire that didn’t consume appeared and reappeared to our people. As we walked through the desert we were led by a pillar of fire that didn’t consume. The Shechinah was with us. As we climbed Mt. Sinai we witnessed a fire from G-d on the mountain. It was a fire that didn’t consume. And as we lit the Menorah in the Mishkan and in the Beis HaMikdash we noticed that in the western most candle of the Menorah there was a fire that never went out. A fire from the Heavens. “This was a testimony to the Jewish people that G-d is in your midst.”

Throughout the First Temple the fire of the Western Candle burned. When the Second Temple was built - again the fire burnt. It burnt miraculously without consuming its oil and we all knew that G-d is with us.

And then the fire went out.

One hundred years after the building of the Second Temple, during the great summit meeting between Alexander the Great and the leader of the Jews, Simon the Just, the candle went out. Suddenly we were confused. We no longer knew if G-d was resting upon His people or not.

Then came Chanukah.

Many years later, many deaths later, the Macabbees miraculously recaptured the Temple from the Greek Authority and restored its holy function. All of Israel returned to Jerusalem en masse and bowed before G-d. They looked for a sign that the Shechinah was with them but the Menorah was not burning. There wasn’t any oil to consume!

A miracle happened. They lit the candles and once again “the bush burned but it did not consume.” On Chanukah we understood that once again, Hashem is with our people.

In our Parsha Aaron was asked to light the Menorah. Not just for then, but for all times the family of Aaron would be the messengers of G-d to show the world that the “fire does not consume”. G-d is still with us, His miracles still occur, His love for us is everlasting.

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