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There is a curious phrase we say in the tefilla of Nacheim at mincha on Tisha B’Av:

You Hashem, with fire, You consumed her (the Mikdash) and with fire You will rebuild her.”

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We understand how the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash occurred with fire, but what does it mean that the rebuilding will occur with fire?

Rav Chaim Friedlander (Sifsei Chaim, Moadim Volume 3, pages 334-336) understands that the fire refers to the midas hadin, and through absolute justice we will merit to have the Mikdash rebuilt. Fire can be used for destruction but it also can be utilized for warming, cooking, baking and other physical pleasures. The midas hadin often causes results which appear to us to be destructive, but ultimately we will see the good in them and it will produce the greatest of pleasures as we earn our reward through din and not through a handout, what Chazal call bread of shame, nahama d’chisufah.

We can suggest another approach to understanding how fire will rebuild the Beis HaMikdash, which we will refer back to later.

Shabbos is an oasis in time of 25 hours, and these 25 hours are sandwiched between two fires. Shabbos begins with the mitzvah of lighting candles and concludes with the fire at havdalah. What happens between these two fires very much depends on how fired up we are. Our fire is our neshama, and on Shabbos it is our neshama yeseirah.

Our drive on Shabbos must be not merely to light Shabbos candles but to allow the Shabbos candles to light us up:

“When we do religious activities we should be religious. We should think about Hashem. We should not be distracted, we should not be thinking about other things, we should not have noise going on in our heads. We should be present, we should recalibrate, focus, take a few deep breaths. The neshama is very much associated with neshimah, breathing (as Chazal, Berachos 43b, say on the last posuk in Tehillim 150:6), kol haneshama tihalel Kah, this refers to praising Hashem with every breath) so when we breathe mindfully we can get in touch with our soul. We don’t just want to light Shabbos candles, we want the candles to light up our house. The difference between the two is dependent on us! We could light the candles as part of a checklist – I’m glad I got that out of the way – and then fall into the couch to read until shul’s over and the men come home, but then the house can remain a truly dark place. But if you light the candles and think about Hashem Yisborach, about the beauty of Shabbos, about the meaning of the week gone by, about our hopes for this Shabbos, and prayers for what lies ahead, spiritual dreams and yearnings for our families and children. You, Hashem, are the source of all light. Please illuminate our eyes to see the light of the world, to see good things, to see the good in others.”                                                                         – Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

The Sefer Naharei Aish (mamaar aleph), authored by the Zelichover Rebbe, Rav Avrohom Shimon Halevi Horowitz, a mashgiach in Yeshivas Chochmei Lublin, writes that bread is designed to give continued life to a person but bread can only do this to a live person, not to a dead body. The Torah gives us life, kee heim chayeinu, but we first have to be alive ourselves for the Torah to work its spiritual power. We need to light a spark of fire within, in order for the Torah and mitzvos to affect us. First, we need to be alive, and only then can the Torah’s spiritual energy work.

The Zelichover applied this to Chazal’s statement that the standard sugyos of Shas are called meat and bread and this is what we should occupy ourselves with for the bulk of our time we devote to learning Torah (see Rambam Hilchos Yesodei Torah, end of chapter 4). This is of course true, said the Zelichover, but most of us need to learn other topics as well. Bread and meat can only provide nutrition to a live person but other studies, like musar and chasidus, are necessary to keep our neshamos alive. Rav Shlomo Freifeld once said on the posuk in Hallel (Tehillim 118:17), that a person must strive not merely to “not be dead” but to be truly alive. We must not merely survive but we must thrive.

Life and spirituality are present in the world all around us but it can be very difficult to find. All too often we’re in a dark room. On Shabbos we turn on the lights and see the spiritual dimension that has always been there.

When we light candles welcoming the Shabbos, the spiritual light of the world turns on. Now we can see what we truly yearn for, for holiness, meaning, and sanctity. When we light the Shabbos candles, we turn on the lights of our soul and ruchniyus becomes clear. We feel Hashem’s presence and His involvement in our lives with the appearance of the Shabbos Queen. When we light the fire of Shabbos in our souls, we energize our spiritual world.

Perhaps this is what is meant by Hashem rebuilding the Beis HaMikdash with fire. It is referring to the fire within us, how passionate we are feeling about Torah and mitzvos. How well we light the fires of the Shabbos candles and all of the other mitzvah lights in our lives.

The fire of our meaningful mitzvos will become the fire of the redemption.

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Rabbi Boruch Leff is a rebbe in Baltimore and the author of six books. He wrote the “Haftorah Happenings” column in The Jewish Press for many years. He can be reached at sbleff@gmail.com.