Earth Wisdom
Plants, Stones, and Seasons

Water Wisdom
Moons and Tides

Air Wisdom
Animals and Spirit Beings

Fire Wisdom
Sabbath and Sacred Space


"You heard a voice out of the darkness, and the mountain burned with fire."
—Deuteronomy 5:20

"The fire conceived and gave birth to light."
—Exodus Rabbah 15:22

fire photoFire is eish, a word interwoven with ish (man) and ishah (woman). Fire is the first light of creation, and it is the eternal light burning in the holy sanctum. Fire is the pillar that led the Israelites through the wilderness, and it is the burning of revelation atop Mt. Sinai. Fie is the angel that wrestled with Jacob, blessing and struggling with him. Fire is the flame of love, as the Song of Songs says: “Many waters cannot quench love.” Fire is the Divine: the devouring fire that burns, and also the warm light that blesses and heals. Fire is the altar, the place of sacrifice and communication. Fire is atzilut, the world of the spirit. It is also the world of gevurah, of limitation and ending. It is the world of the angel Gabriel, the angel of strength and courage, and of Rebekah, the matriarch of prophecy, who knew when and how to act. And it is the world of the spark of wisdom, the Abba, the one who begets, the pouring forth of spirit into form.

Fire represents the sacred hearth, the Temple and the Tabernacle, the holy place. Now that Jews do not have a Temple, the sacred hearth is a time rather than a place. The Sabbath, as Abraham Joshua Heschel says, is a palace in time. It is the flame that has warmed Jews around the world in times of prosperity and in times of darkness. This is why we kindle candles to begin the Sabbath, and why we end it by lighting a new flame. The Divine too is called a flame, and mystical Jews speak of the holy fire that is our connection to God. Articles in this section shed light on fire and the spirit, images of the Divine, as well as on the Sabbath and other sources of illumination.

Jill Hammer


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