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The Torches are Lit

The daily routine in the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) began with a tour of the premises, to make sure that all vessels were in place and ready for service. The inspection was done at the crack of dawn, when it was still dark out, so the priests carried torches to light up their path. On Shabbat, when they were not allowed to carry torches, they’d light candles before Shabbat and place them strategically along the way.

Carrying a torch on Shabbat is not explicitly forbidden by the Torah, unlike lighting a fire, for example. It is one of the acts that were declared “muktzah” by our sages, in order to prevent people from accidentally coming to do a forbidden act. However, there is a principle that rabbinical restrictions do not apply in the Temple—so why were the priests not allowed to carry torches?

The answer to this question is that rabbinical restrictions were only suspended during the actual Temple service. However, the pre-inspection was undertaken to honor the Temple but not part of the actual divinely mandated service, and therefore rabbinical strictures applied.

Shabbat is referred to as “a day of complete rest and tranquility,” the same terms used to refer to the future Redemption. When Moshiach comes the Temple will be restored, and it will be greater than either of the two previous Temples. And its perfection depends on the work we do here during the time of exile. This is alluded to by the fact that they lit candles before Shabbat to prepare for the inspection on Shabbat. The perfection of the future Redemption will come about through the power of the lights we lit during exile.

Likutei Sichot vol. 21, p. 238


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