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Constantly Burning
Sichos in English


Shabbos Parshas Tetzaveh; the 13th Day of Adar I, 5749

1. The opening verses in this week’s portion deal with the commandment to kindle the menora: “And you, [Moshe] must command the Jewish people to bring you clear illuminating oil, made from crushed olives, to keep the lamp constantly burning. Aharon and his sons shall arrange [the menora] from evening until morning in G-d’s presence...” (Shmos 27:20,21).

Several difficulties arise from the latter verse: (1) If Aharon HaKohen was designated to kindle the menora, why was the oil brought to Moshe? (2) In the first verse, which speaks of the oil being brought to Moshe, he is told to keep the menora “constantly burning.” But the next verse, which speaks of Aharon’s role, says “from evening until morning.” What is the meaning of this variation?

Chassidus explains that the kindling Aharon performed indeed lasted from evening until morning. However, by taking the oil, Moshe generated new strength into the lamps so that Aharon could then light the lamps to burn constantly.

To properly understand this explanation, we must first discuss the symbolic meaning of candle lighting in man’s Divine service.

The menora represents all of the Jewish people, for an individual lamp represents a Jewish soul, as it says, “the lamp of G-d is the soul of man” (Mishlei 20:27). The menora with its seven branches encompasses the Divine service of all the Jewish people. The branches of the menora represent seven paths of serving G-d, such as love, fear, etc. Aharon’s job was to kindle the Jewish lamps — to awaken the love of the Jewish people for G-d — so that they would desire to be united with the blessed Ein Sof. This leads to an increase in joy and delight in the observance of Torah and mitzvos, through the revelation of G-dliness that comes as a result of Torah and mitzvos.

In this process there are two aspects. “From evening to morning” alludes to a path of Divine service changing a state of night and darkness to morning and revelation. Chassidus explains that this approach begins when only a ray of light pierces the darkness, followed by gradual change until the light brings full illumination, like the day that follows the night.

The “constantly burning” approach alludes to a state of constant and unchanging Divine service, a state of being continuously connected to one’s G-dly source. In this way, one is always in a state of illumination.

These two approaches represent the difference between the function of Moshe and Aharon, and by extension, the general difference between the Divine service of prayer and Torah study.

Aharon served in the Sanctuary, a place consecrated for the offering of sacrifices. In the post-Temple era, this aspect of Divine service has been allocated to the service of prayer. As the Talmud relates, the daily prayers were established to substitute for the daily offerings in the Beis HaMikdash. Generally, the direction of prayer is from below upward. In other words, it refines the animal soul so that it too will be inspired with love of G-d. Also, mitzvos are said to move in an upward direction insofar as they elevate the material objects used in the fulfillment of the commandments.

Moshe represents Torah study. In fact, the Torah is referred to as “Toras Moshe” (Moshe’s Torah). The direction of Torah study is generally seen as descending from Above downward.

Although Torah is the word of G-d, the wisdom of the Holy One, blessed be He, which has descended below so that man may study and comprehend it, it nevertheless retains its lofty status and is not restricted by temporal or spatial limitations. In this sense, Torah is seen as the “constantly burning” lamp.

In contrast, prayer, man’s supplication to G-d, as well as mitzvos, man’s actions, are involved with material concerns and are thus subject to the constrains of physicality, namely time and place. Prayer and mitzvos are, therefore, seen as lamps that burn from “evening to morning.”

The difference between study and prayer also expresses itself in this framework. Prayer is set for specific times — morning or evening. Morning prayer, Shacharis, symbolizes the nature of Avrohom, the attribute of kindness. Mincha, on the other hand, represents severity. And the evening prayer, Maariv, symbolizes beauty, the attribute of Yaakov.

Similarly, all time-bound mitzvos, such as the kindling of the menora, are set in specific time frames. And in the case of mitzvos pertaining to the Beis HaMikdash, they can only be performed when the Beis HaMikdash is standing.

Torah is above time; Torah must always be studied regardless of any time constraints. Even those halachic rules that designate time frameworks may also be studied at all times. The study of practices limited to the time of the Beis HaMikdash goes on even after the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, as it says, “one who studies the laws of the ola sacrifice is considered as if he had offered an ola” (Menachos, end). So too, with the study of the plans of the Beis HaMikdash, as it says, “In the merit of studying the rules of the Beis HaMikdash, I will consider it as if they had been involved in building the Beis HaMikdash” (Tanchuma, Tzav 14).

Now let us take a second look at the Torah’s command to Moshe “to bring you” (the oil), although it was Aharon who kindled the menora. In order for Aharon to be effective in kindling the menora, the Divine service of raising from below upwards, it was first necessary for Moshe to be involved in receiving and providing the oil. As Chassidus explains: “Then Aharon would have the power...to draw the revelation of love in the souls of the Jewish people to engender light and joy in the mitzva (Torah Or, Tetzaveh).

Moreover, when Moshe made the preparatory steps, Aharon was then able to kindle the lamps in a way that it would not only burn from evening to morning, but also to be constantly burning.

In mitzvos too, there is the potential for a higher dimension. Normally every mitzva involves a specific act and a specific time — from “evening to morning.” In the higher dimension, however, mitzvos assume a continuous quality, beyond the division of time. When this state permeates the individual, the “mitzva lamp” can be “constantly” burning, infused with the “Torah light.”

A question remains: Since the first level of observance is temporal, why does the verse speak of the “constantly burning” lamps first and only then mention the dimension of “evening to morning?” The order would seem to be reversed, from the simple to the more sublime?

To clarify this point we must say that there is a special significance to the opening words of the portion, “And you must command...,” which represents a loftier approach both from the point of view of Moshe (drawing Torah down), and in the actions of Aharon as well, in the process of raising up. In this context, right from the outset it is necessary to speak of the continuously burning lamps.

Some further elucidation is in order. Why the unusual phraseology: “And you must command?” Normally we find the simple term “tzav” (command). Why was Moshe directly told to personally give this command to the Jewish people? At the same time, Moshe is not mentioned by name. He is merely referred to with the pronoun “you.”

Herein lies the explanation: “And you” alludes to the essential being of Moshe that stands in a dimension that is higher than a name. The essence of Moshe must effect a connection between the essence of the Jewish people with the Essence of the Holy One, blessed be He, Above. Only then will the kindling be without interruption.

When we speak of the essential being of Jewish souls, we are talking of a level that is much higher than that of Torah, because the “thought” of the Jewish people preceded everything, even the Torah (see Bereishis Rabba 1:4). Where do we see this intrinsic quality? In the Jewish people’s inherent power of self-sacrifice, which stems from the Pintele Yid, the essence of the Jewish soul, which is “truly a part of G-d.” “The soul of man is G-d’s candle,” that candle is constantly burning, never ceasing or changing. As the Alter Rebbe states, “A Jew cannot and does not want to be separated from G-dliness.” (See HaYom Yom, 21 Sivan)

This concept is hinted at in the use of the pronoun “you” instead of a name. A name is only a superficial appellation to the person’s self, which, of course, exists even before the person is named.

It is true, however, that a person’s name is bound to the root of his soul; it provides the conduit for the life-force to be drawn down from the soul’s root to the aspect of the soul that is invested in the physical body. But the soul’s root referred to here is not the essence of the soul itself. The true essential being is loftier than the soul’s root and loftier than any name; no name can encompass it, for it is the lofty essence, part of G-d.

When we speak of connecting the soul’s essence with G-dliness, we do not speak of connecting two separate, independent entities; rather, we are referring to an essential unity.

At the close of the portion of Tetzaveh, there is a further reference to this state of unity, as it says, “You shall make the incense-burning altar.” The word “ketores” (incense) here has the etymological root of ‘tying together,’ alluding to the ultimate connection between the Jewish soul and G-d.

We may now explain why the verse first mentions the higher state of continual burning.

Notwithstanding his or her external condition, every Jew, by virtue of his/her essential being, is connected to and bound to the true essence of G-d. This bond exists in every Jew, from the most venerable elder to a newborn baby, and from the most learned scholar to the simpleton. By virtue of this essential bond, the connection is also continuous, like the ever-burning lamps. For this reason, the Torah first speaks of the continuously burning lamps. Indeed, the foundation of all Divine service is the eternal essential bond between G-d and man, alluded to in the words “And you must command!”

We find daily expression of this eternal process in the first words we say upon awakening: “Modeh Ani” (I offer praise to You...). When a Jew awakens in the morning and becomes “a new being,” it is too early for the various levels and individual powers to be manifest. Instead, the essential being supercedes all other powers. This is the “Ani,” the “I.” (In this sense the first person pronoun “I” is similar to the second person pronoun “you”). At the moment of waking, the essential “I” is in a state of gratitude to G-d, a state of subservience and cleaving to the inner life Above, the true Essence. Coming at the start of the day, this serves as the basis upon which all further action and function in Divine service is built. This connection and devotion of the essence of the soul to the essence of G-d infuses all the other activities of the day in a manner of a “constantly burning lamp.”

In order to reveal and tap this power, we must be involved in Torah study. For although G-d’s supernal thought of the Jewish souls preceded Torah, nevertheless, in the temporal world, the route to connection with G-d is through Torah. As the Zohar states, the Jewish people connect themselves with Torah and Torah is connected to G-d. This is especially true through the esoteric teachings of Torah, which unites the inner soul of the Jew with the inner essence of the Holy One, blessed be He. Through that process, the inner essential bond between G-d and the Jewish people is also revealed.

Thus, Scripture states, “And you must command,” and then it goes on to speak of the oil. Oil is wisdom — Torah — especially the esoteric teachings, as explained in Chassidus that the revealed aspect of Torah is the light and the esoteric wisdom is the luminary. This is revealed in the “continuously burning lamp” in the Torah and then in the “evening to morning” state, which represents mitzvos. But since the individual lives with Torah, his mitzvos are permeated by the “continuous” light. And here the state of “evening to morning” adds even to the eternal state, for night to day indicates an immeasurable increase and ascent.


In this leap year, we are now close to Purim Katan (the 14th of Adar I). Purim is connected with the theme of self-sacrifice, the power that stems from the inner essence of a Jew.

Chassidus explains that during the period that Haman’s decree stood intact — nearly a year’s time — all the Jewish people stood in a state of active self-sacrifice, everyday and every moment. At every moment they were ready to sacrifice their lives and not give up their faith; not one Jew even entertained the thought. (See Torah Ohr, Megillas Esther 120d.) In other words, during this period, their essential bond with G-d was revealed.

This intense feeling was then transmitted to their practical observance, which is why the Jews fulfilled what they had previously accepted at Matan Torah, as alluded to in the verse, “The Jews fulfilled and accepted” (Esther 9:27). Matan Torah was only the beginning, while the main acceptance of Torah took place during the episode of Purim. For the spirit of self-sacrifice penetrated every level of Torah observance and Torah study. In fact, this self-sacrifice was done with a spirit of gladness and joy, in the manner by which Aharon brings light and joy to the Jewish people.

In a leap year, this effect is more pronounced, as there are two Purims, one minor and one major, indicating different levels of devotion and essential powers of the soul.

When Shabbos Parshas Tetzaveh is the day before Purim Katan it is an auspicious time to take new strength in faith and devotion, which will then infuse all areas of practice and action. This is especially true when we study the esoteric teachings, of which it is said, “Know the L-rd of your father and serve Him with a complete heart” (Divrei HaYomim 28:9).

Specifically, we should study the teachings of the Rebbe Rayatz, the extension of Moshe in our generation. Through the Rebbe we attain the state of, “And you must command.” He is the shepherd of the Jewish people, who nurtured the Jewish people and inspired them with faith and self-sacrifice in an innermost way.

On this day, everyone should undertake to study the Rebbe Rayatz’s discourse “And the Jews Accepted,” of 5687. In this maamer, he explains the role of Moshe to nurture the faith and self-sacrifice of the Jewish people even in the time of Exile, as in the period of Mordechai and Esther — so that they reach the state of “luminary.”

The Rebbe Rayatz taught this discourse on Purim Katan 5687 (1927). This was at a time when he stood in great personal danger, yet he did not show any fear for his own welfare. In fact, he had been warned that there were spies present who would use his words against him, which in fact happened, as he was arrested later that year. The Rebbe Rayatz spoke words of spiritual reawakening and soulful inspiration to awaken and motivate his followers with tremendous enthusiasm to carry on their work in Torah and mitzvos despite the oppression, with the full power of self-sacrifice.


The Gemara states: “We may attend to communal matters on Shabbos” (see Shabbos 150a). It will surely be beneficial to start studying the discourse today and to continue into Purim Katan, and through Shushan Purim Katan. And this is in addition to the regular customs of Purim Katan and Shushan Purim Katan (as outlined in Shulchan Aruch), as well as the customary practice of studying the laws of Purim thirty days in advance and the Chassidic teachings associated with Purim.

Tzedaka should also be increased, for Purim is especially connected with the practice of charity to the poor, so that everyone who stretches out his hand is given assistance.

Certainly there should be an increase in joy, for “when the month of Adar begins one increases joy” (Taanis 29a), and this includes the month of Adar I. The redemption of Pesach is connected to Adar, since Moshe was born on the seventh of Adar. May we merit to see the true redemption even before Purim Katan.

And although we use the term katan (small), therein lies its greatness, for Yaakov was called small, Dovid was the smallest, and the moon was the small luminary, yet “this small one will be great,” with the true and complete redemption. This is also connected to the 14th of the month, when the moon begins to reach its full state.

May the true and complete redemption come through our righteous Moshiach and then we will go with our youth and elders, sons and daughters, and those who will “arise from the dust,” the Rebbe Rayatz at their head, all together to the Holy Land, to Yerushalayim the Holy City, and to Tziyon.



“Constantly burning” means being in a state of constant connection to




When Shabbos Parshas Tetzaveh is the day before Purim Katan it is an auspicious time to take new strength in faith and devotion.





Although we use the term small with regard to Purim Katan, therein lies its greatness...“this small one will be great,” with the true and complete Redemption.



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