The Soul: Oil, Wick & Two Flames in a Lamp
“The soul of man is the lamp of G-d” is what the wisest of men, king Shlomo, said. Centuries later, Rabbi Dovber of Lubavitch expounded on this theme and masterfully explained how the various aspects of the lamp – the oil, the wick, the fire and the earthenware lamp itself are the perfect way to describe the various aspects of the Jewish soul.
The wick is the material that the flame consumes and thereby thrives, so that it produce a clean, calm, and productive light;
It corresponds to the body of a Jew and its materialistic drives, emotions, and thoughts. This materialism is to be consumed by the soul, allowing the soul to shine greater and brighter than ever before.
The oil has a conflicting role. It is what fuels the flame so it be able to consume the wick, but, at the same time, sustains the wick so that it not be consumed too rapidly. Oil is the life-essence of everything and can be extracted from anything, even stones!
It corresponds to the knowledge and recognition of G-d that both the soul and body share. This wisdom is what drives the body and the soul to act contrary to their nature – the soul to not depart from the body and remain in the world, in order that it fulfill its G-dly mission in consuming and transforming the bodily functions that they become holy; and the body, when inspired to get close to G-d, to not be consumed all at once. But rather, to allow a gradual – and sustainable – penetration of holiness into its reality; a healthy consumption.
The “dark fire” is the part of the flame whose mission is to slowly consume and eat away at the wick, the bodily side of our reality.
It corresponds to the part of the soul whose job is to transform the body by talking to and reasoning with it in its own language, and to show it how being close to G-d is not just for the soul, but for the body as well.
The “bright fire” is the part of a candle that shines brightly and radiates light everywhere, as it flickers its way up;
It corresponds to the brighter side of our soul, which feels united and one with its Maker. It shines and illuminates its surroundings with G-dly meaning, while it yearns to soar upward to unite with its divine source.
The lamp is what allows for this fascinating collection of fine materials to function; interestingly, it is made of a material far coarser and unrefined then the flame, the oil, and even the wick, yet it is the only thing that can hold them all together.
It corresponds to the observance of practical mitzvos which allows for the deepest desire of the soul to be expressed – fulfilling G-d’s will beyond a need to reason with it. All the above sublime endeavors of a deep love for G-d, which consumes even our bodily drives, is only achievable in a context of strict observance of physical mitzvos.